According to new studies, the chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. PFOA is present among 98% of Americans. The chemical is found in products like food packaging, carpets, paint, and nonstick cookware. Click below to read more.

Jason J.

The chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is present in trace amounts in up to 98% of Americans. Previous research has linked PFOA exposure to unhealthy cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart disease, but the potential health hazards posed by the chemical remain largely unknown.

In the new study, which included a nationally representative sample of adults, those with the highest levels of PFOA in their blood had double the odds of having a history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke, compared to adults with the lowest PFOA levels.

The highest PFOA levels also were associated with 78% higher odds of peripheral artery disease, a condition related to heart disease in which the arteries in the limbs narrow and harden.

Although these numbers may sound alarming, the researchers say the results should be interpreted with caution. Because the study looked at the relationship between PFOA and heart disease at a single point in time, it doesn’t show that PFOA exposure causes — or even precedes — heart disease.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the trace amounts of PFOA found in consumer products are generally a remnant of the manufacturing process and do not appear to pose a threat to human health.

Still, the agency is working with several large companies to eliminate PFOA and related chemicals from products and factory emissions by 2015.

Prior studies in humans, animals and petri dishes have suggested several pathways through which PFOA might affect heart health.

PFOA exposure has been associated, for instance, with blood-vessel dysfunction, high “bad” cholesterol (LDL), low “good” cholesterol (HDL), and insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.