HBN Researcher Cassidy Clarity Part of Team Publishing PFAS Research

HBN | January 2022 | Newsletter

Cassidy Clarity, HBN Material Researcher, was recently published in the journal Environmental Health for her research on the effects of PFAS and flame retardants on the bodies of women working in San Francisco, work conducted while Cassidy was a Research Associate at University of California, Berkeley in 2020. This is one of several papers from the Women Workers Biomonitoring Collaborative, a group research effort that aims to understand women’s workplace exposures.

The article, available here, is titled “Associations between polyfluoroalkyl substance and organophosphate flame retardant exposures and telomere length in a cohort of women firefighters and office workers in San Francisco.” PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substance), sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” are a type of synthetic chemical found in a wide range of products, from raincoats to nonstick pans to paint. Flame retardants - specifically organophosphates - are commonly added to products such as furniture and insulation and can be released from products into house dust or when burned, which can be especially impactful for firefighters in their line of work.

Cassidy and her colleagues’ research compared chemical exposures in women firefighters with those who worked in office settings to evaluate the association between these exposures and their bodies’ telomeres, the ends of our DNA that can be associated with bodily processes such as aging, disease progression, and tumor growth. 

Their findings suggest that PFAS and certain flame retardants are, indeed, associated with telomere length in women workers, with larger effects seen among firefighters as compared to office workers. Their work highlights the importance of continued research into the significant health effects of toxic chemical exposures, including occupational exposures that workers can face on the job. It also illustrates the inherent challenges in making direct connections between disease activity and specific chemicals, and the importance of forward-thinking policies to protect workers and fenceline communities. Toxic chemicals are one small but important part of a complicated web of factors that contribute to the health of individuals and communities.

Congratulations to Cassidy and the team at Women Workers Biomonitoring Collaborative on publishing this important study. We are excited to share their awesome work! Read the full article here.