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97% Of Americans Have Toxic 'Forever Chemicals' In Their Blood, Now You Can Test Your Levels At Home

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) - Nearly every American, the CDC says 97%, has some level of "forever chemicals" in their blood, because they are found in so many household products. Now, scientists in Arvada are making it easier for you to test your levels at home.

PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances, are commonly known as forever chemicals because they can build up in the body over time. Experts say they can cause a host of health problems, including cancer, reproductive issues and developmental effects.

Scientists with EmpowerDX have developed a new, first of its kind, at-home test that allows you to test your PFAS blood levels with just a finger prick.

The global laboratory company Eurofins analyzes the samples you take at home and uploads your results to a private online portal. Scientists at a Eurofins lab in Arvada have been studying PFAS closely.

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"PFAS have unique chemical properties which make them really good for a variety of consumer products," says Dr. Sarah Choyke, Technical Director for Eurofins in Arvada. "The problem is that they're also known as forever chemicals, so they don't break down; they leach out of the products that they're supposed to be in and get into our water, wildlife, and people."

The test can check for several PFAS compounds.

"PFAS, it's not just one compound. It's a whole class of compounds. So, our environmental exposure isn't just one compound," Choyke said. "We're usually exposed to a broad mix of similar compounds but they're all very different."

CBS4 used the test with three people in the metro area: a mom in Denver's Regis neighborhood, a veteran Denver firefighter, and a mom in Commerce City.

The Denver resident, Perri Klein, a mom of three, had the lowest levels, something she found surprising, as she is a cancer survivor. The test found three PFAS compounds in her blood, and her levels were at or below the national average.

"I would have thought they'd be higher," Klein said. "It makes me feel sad for the people who have more and to think that it could be because of their job or, you know, whatever is putting them in more close contact to it."

The Commerce City resident, Lucy Molina, had five different compounds in her blood, including two newer PFAS compounds the other participants didn't have.

"I'm thankful that I could do it (the test)," Molina said. "It's scary at the same time to know the truth."

The veteran firefighter, Captain Greg Pixley, who has spent more than 30 years on the force, had the highest levels. The test found five different compounds, including one the other two participants didn't have, and his levels were all slightly below, at, and slightly higher than the national average.

"One of the reasons that I'm most surprised is my continued exposure over my 37 years as a firefighter. I thought that I was going to be well above the national average and maybe even to a critical range," Pixley said. "I'm happy that I'm not, but perhaps I'm more resilient than other firefighters that might have the same exposure, or there's firefighters that have had more exposure. So, my concerns are for them."

Experts say they're still trying to figure out what threshold levels are dangerous, but that any amount of PFAS can potentially be harmful to the human body.

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Dr. Travis Wilkes with EmpowerDX developed the at-home test. He says once you know your levels, it's important to identify potential sources, like your drinking water, cookware, or cosmetics, and lower your exposure to those things.

"I think food packaging is a big one," Wilkes said. "I think that food packaging is probably one of the more widespread ways that people are getting exposed."

A bill passed this year will soon ban some products made with PFAS from being sold in Colorado, and a recent study found several big name brands don't have plans to phase out PFAS from waterproof clothing.

Wilkes says the test results can also help you make more informed health decisions with your doctor.

"So, understanding that exposure lead can lead to early diagnosis, early treatment," Wilkes said. "Early detection is key to treating any disease."

Experts also say people who give blood frequently tend to have lower PFAS levels, and women also tend to have lower PFAS levels due to menstruation.

Back at the Denver Fire station, Pixley says he'd like to see more PFAS screening for all of the firefighters on the force, since they're more likely to be exposed to the chemicals in firefighting foam and gear.

"Being proactive and being cautionary in terms of what we do will only prolong our life in our careers. It's important for us to do the right thing for our own body and for our families, because if we can't work, if we get sick and if we die, our family suffers. Our brothers and sisters suffer," Pixley said. "So, this is a great thing for us and I hope to see more PFAS testing in our everyday regimen, in our annual physicals."

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