WVU researchers find a link between a common chemical and tooth decay

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – According to a new study by West Virginia University researchers, a chemical found in drinking water and nonstick pans is now being linked to tooth decay. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoralkyl substances, called PFAS for short, are man made and useful for its resistance to fire, water, oil, temperature and chemicals. 

It was developed in the 1940’s and used in a variety of products including firefighting foam, carpet cleaner, electronics and products that were treated to be stain and water repellent.  

The problem with PFAS is that they don’t break down and can build up in the environment. A study done last month by the Environmental Working Group found that PFAS contamination is found widespread in rainwater, and EWG scientists explained that PFAS are likely detectable in all major water supplies in the U.S.

When PFAS are ingested through drinking water or using a non-stick pan that has been treated with PFAS, the chemicals build up in the blood and organs. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS can cause heart, liver, reproductive, developmental, kidney, immune system and thyroid issues as well as cancer. 

PFAS are currently regulated in the US through a series of laws and regulations, such as the PFOA Stewardship Program, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Clean Air Act. 

However, according to EPA, they’re still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States through consumer goods bought overseas.  

The new study by the WVU School of Dentistry found that children with a higher concentration of PFA’s in their blood are more likely to get cavities. They studied a sample of 630 children that were three to 11 years old, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study. The scientists hypothesize that a specific type of PFA’s might affect how the body develops tooth enamel.  

More research is required to understand exactly why this is, but the good news is that the scientists said about half of the children in the study didn’t have any measurable amount of PFAS.

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