Blood Testing and Potential PFAS Exposure

One of the questions area residents have asked Wolverine, and that we’ve heard them ask the state and local health departments, is whether they should have their blood tested for PFAS.  We’re not the experts on this, but have spent a lot of time consulting experts and reviewing what they’ve said about it, and wanted to pass along what we’ve learned.

Blood testing is neither routine nor recommended in communities addressing potential PFAS impact on drinking water.  These positions are based on the fact that there is no clinical value to individual blood testing for PFAS.  In fact, such testing can present challenges to public health officials who are responsible for communicating risks, and for community members who are trying to understand how to interpret the results.  Health experts around the country, including here in Kent County, echo the conclusion that blood tests for PFAS are neither helpful nor recommended.

  • “The blood test for PFAS can only tell us the levels of specific PFAS in your body at the time you were tested. The blood tests cannot be interpreted and used in patient care.  The blood test results cannot predict or rule-out the development of future problems related to suspected exposure.”

Source:  ATSDR (the federal public health agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services tasked to address PFAS exposure and blood testing)  “An Overview of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Interim Guidance for Clinicians Responding to Patient Exposure Concerns” dated June 7, 2017 and located at  https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfc/docs/pfas_clinician_fact_sheet_508.pdf

  • Blood testing “has no prognostic or other value,” the CDC “does not recommend blood testing because they can’t interpret it,” and the Kent County Health Department has “a very high respect for what they say, and so that’s our position.”

Source:  Dr. Mark Hall, Medical Director, Kent County Health Department (November 29, 2017, Town Hall)

  • “Blood tests are available, but not routinely done. The results can only be used to compare against the national average and cannot be used to predict health effects or determination of source.”

Source: Department of Navy 2016 https://www.bracpmo.navy.mil/content/dam/bracpmo/northeast/naval_air_station_joint_reserve_base_willow_grove/pdfs/meetings/20160523_Open_House_Posters.pdf

  • “Blood testing can tell if a person’s PFC level is lower than, similar to, or higher than the blood levels of the general population.  However, testing is not recommended since results of blood tests don’t show whether you might have health problems from exposure to PFCs.”

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 2017 https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/WQ-PFC-Blood-Testing-Info_Final_041417.pdf

  • “Individuals who feel they may have been exposed to high levels of PFOA or PFOS and would like to have their blood levels measured should keep in mind that this is not a routine test that health care providers offer.  The test results will not provide clear answers for existing or possible health effects.”

Source: Alaska Department of Health and Human Services 2016 http://dec.alaska.gov/spar/csp/sites/docs/DeptofHealthPFASFactSheet.pdf

In addition, Wolverine Worldwide asked Dr. Janet Anderson, a board certified toxicologist and PFAS expert, to provide further explanation and she said:

There is no clinical value to blood testing for individuals, and it is neither routine nor recommended in areas that are being investigated for the presence of PFAS in drinking water.  In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that over 99% of the population has some PFAS in their system – these substances are virtually everywhere and in everyone to some degree – and testing blood for PFAS provides no information about where they came from or what health effects, if any, a person might have. Lessons learned from the few places where PFAS analysis of blood has been conducted show us that residents and health care professionals are often dissatisfied and frustrated when the blood data results come back because the values cannot be used in any way and just lead to more questions.

We will continue to keep the community updated about this issue through our blog at www.WeAreWolverine.com.