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Blood Monitoring for PFAS in California Expands

Dec. 5, 2019, 2:51 PM

California health officials took blood samples from 430 people in Los Angeles, and each one tested positive for at least one of a dozen so-called forever chemicals found in water supplies, food, and consumer products.

Officials with the California Regional Exposure Study (CARE) undertook the testing in spring 2018, and the average serum sample detected seven separate PFAS, with levels of contamination increasing with age, Kathleen Attfield, a research scientist with the state Department of Public Health’s Center for Health Communities, said.

For four of the PFAS, men had levels of contamination higher than women, Attfield said during a PFAS seminar Dec. 4 in Sacramento hosted by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are part of a family of thousand of chemicals used in a variety of products including nonstick cookware, food packaging, carpeting, and firefighting foam.

They don’t break down in water and can accumulate in the body, causing developmental issues in children, immune system problems, and certain cancers.

The CARE program in LA will look at water supplies, occupational exposures, hobbies, and specific foods such as rice and fish to see if those could be sources of the contamination, Attfield said.

Screening a State

The state launched a similar survey in 2016 screen for PFAS and metals in Asian/Pacific Islander communities. The LA survey was the beginning of sampling expected to take place in eight regions of the state.

“We are now marching through the state,” Attfield said.

Riverside and San Bernardino residents were sampled in 2019, and the state hopes to move to Southern California’s San Diego and Orange County in 2020.

In addition to food, PFAS have been detected locally in cormorant eggs, otters, and aquatic plants, said Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute.

“We know these compounds are not just in people and fish,” Sutton said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily C. Dooley at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Renee Schoof at