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  • December 14, 2023
  • IARC

IARC Monographs: PFOA Classified as Carcinogenic and PFOS as Possibly Carcinogenic—Unveiling the Cancer Hazards of 'Forever Chemicals

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has assessed the carcinogenicity of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), prominent members of the "forever chemicals" family. After a comprehensive review by a global panel of experts, PFOA is classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), backed by robust evidence in experimental animals and mechanistic data in exposed humans. PFOS is deemed possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), supported by strong mechanistic evidence, albeit with limited animal and human cancer evidence.

Published in The Lancet Oncology, the IARC Monographs reveal that PFOA and PFOS, pervasive in the environment, are found in various products, including food packaging, textiles, and firefighting foams. Workers in production and industries associated with these chemicals face the highest exposure, predominantly through inhalation. Despite some countries imposing restrictions, exposure persists in waste management. Notably, firefighting foams, where PFOA and PFOS were prevalent, pose potential risks to firefighters.

For the general population, exposure occurs mainly through food, drinking water, and consumer products, with contaminated sites raising concerns about drinking-water safety. The IARC Monographs classification underscores the potential cancer hazards of these chemicals, serving as a crucial step in understanding the risks associated with exposure, though it doesn't quantify the actual risk levels. The findings emphasize the importance of continued monitoring and regulatory measures to mitigate exposure and protect public health.



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