Science Review: PFAS, Covid-19, and the Immune System

In the midst of a global Covid-19 pandemic, the fact that there is almost universal exposure to PFAS chemicals that can harm the immune system is troubling. The potential links between these twin crises was summed up by Congressman Harley Rouda, House Oversight and Reform Environment Subcommittee Chairman: 

“We know that PFAS exposure, which weakens immune systems, causes diseases like cancer, and is reported to reduce antibody responses to vaccines, could create the perfect Covid-19 storm in communities across the United States.”

Scientists don’t understand all of the reasons why some individuals get Covid-19 and experience few or no symptoms while others fall gravely ill or die from the disease. It is unclear whether high PFAS exposure may or may not be playing a role in some cases. What we do know is that PFAS weakens the immune system, and people with weakened immune systems are likely to have worse outcomes from Covid-19 infection.

This document is intended to provide a high-level overview of the science around PFAS and how it intersects with the major public health threat posed by Covid-19.