A new study published February 14, 2013 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives associates perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perlfuorooctanoate (PFOA) exposure with increased odds of developing osteoarthritis in women (Uhl et al.). The researchers from Yale and Harvard University, U.S. reanalyzed the data from the 2003-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for a relationship between the odds of osteoarthritis and exposure to the two perfluorinated compounds PFOS and PFOA. The researchers analyzed a subset of 4,102 individuals aged 20 to 84 years for which both exposure data and information on osteoarthritis status was available and adjusted their analysis for a variety of potential confounders including age, income, and race/ethnicity. While the highest quartiles of women exposed to PFOA and PFOS had 62% and 116 % respectively higher odds of osteoarthritis than those in the lowest quartiles, the association was no longer significant after adjustment for confounders. They could also not confirm such an association in men. The association found thus warrants further research.

Perfluorinated compounds are used in a variety of consumer products as stain and grease repellants. PFOS was phased out in 2000 and also PFOA is currently being withdrawn by many big manufacturers due to concerns regarding their persistency in body and environment and potential endocrine disrupting effects. Neither of the two compounds is assumed to be used in food packaging. Yet, some polyfluorinated compounds, such as polyfluoroalkyl phosphoric acid diesters (diPAPs), which are used in food contact applications, can be biotransformed into PFOA in the body.

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Uhl, S.A., James-Todd, T. and Bell,  M.L. “Association of Osteoarthritis with Perfluorooctanoate and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate in NHANES 2003–2008”. Environ Health Perspect (published online February 14, 2013).  doi:10.1289/ehp.1205673