Perfluorooctanoic acid may pose a risk to the liver
Components of the coating for numerous consumer products such as cookware, baking paper or sandwich paper may damage the liver. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as being toxic to reproduction and the liver. Further investigations must now clarify the risk for consumers.
In the research project "Molecular Mechanisms of the Toxicity of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)", which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), BfR scientists are investigating the risks that PFOA actually entail. These are mainly used as industrial chemicals in the manufacture of fluoropolymers (e.g. polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE). The fluoropolymers in turn can be found as a dirt, water and grease repellent coating in numerous consumer products, including baking paper and sandwich paper. “When these products come into contact with food, PFOA can get into food as a contaminant and is then consumed,” says the BfR.
What are the risks for consumers?
After perfluorooctanoic acid was assessed by EFSA as toxic to reproduction and liver and the suspicion that PFOA had a hormone-like effect, the question of possible risks for consumers arises. So far, however, it remains unclear whether these effects can also occur in humans, according to the BfR. So far, the negative consequences have only been confirmed in animal experiments. The low concentrations found in food are not considered to be harmful to human health. However, high concentrations of PFOA in animal experiments have led to tumors in the liver and testicles, reports the BfR. In addition, the substance is suspected to have a hormonal effect. However, it remains questionable whether the results from animal experiments can be transferred directly to humans.
Results from animal experiments transferable to humans?
"This fundamental question is of great importance for the assessment of the health risk of PFOA as a contaminant in food," emphasizes BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. According to him, this is the only way to “derive safe health-related guidelines for this substance.” In principle, it is a central task of research at BfR to close the research gaps in the field of toxicology of food contaminants. This should be done with the research project "Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)", which is planned to run over a period of two years.
Research project for risk assessment
The research project primarily aims to investigate the toxic effects of PFOA on human liver cells, reports the BfR. For this, special human liver cell lines would be used, which are exposed to the substance in different concentrations. The aim of the project is "to investigate the toxic effects of PFOA at the molecular level and to elucidate the mechanisms of action, particularly with regard to the liver-toxic effects," the Federal Institute announced. Based on the knowledge gained, a better assessment of the health risk of PFOA can be made. (fp)