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MSU doctor develops home test for PFAS in blood

An image of the home test kit taking a sample of blood to be sent to a lab. There it will be analyzed for several types of PFAS.
Courtesy: Courtney Carignan
An image of the home test kit taking a sample of blood to be sent to a lab. There it will be analyzed for several types of PFAS.

A Michigan State University scientist has developed a way to do a PFAS blood test at home.

Dr. Courtney Carignan is an epidemiologist and an exposure scientist at MSU. Inspired by COVID home testing, she devised a way for people exposed to types of PFAS to take a home test and then send the sample to a lab for analysis.

“People with drinking water contamination or occupational exposures often want to know their blood levels, but have trouble gaining access to a blood draw testing. So, that’s the main motivation for developing this test,” Carignan said.

Typically, a person would go to a doctor’s office for a blood draw and then it would be sent to a lab for testing. This home PFAS test is much like a diabetic blood test in that it requires a prick of the finger.

“But the difference is that you're loading the blood drop onto something that looks like a little cotton swab and it pulls the blood up into it at a specific volume, and then you seal it in a bag and you send it into a lab for analysis.”

When the results are returned, there’s a website that can help you determine whether your exposure to one or more of the chemicals is high relative to the general population.

Carignan said to test the test, there was a group of people exposed to PFAS already in a study.

“We asked our study participants who are also getting the venous blood draw if they would also try this finger prick test. So we were able to compare the results from this test with the traditional test, and we found a very high correlation and we're able to confirm that the test works well.”

Carignan said the tests can be used to document exposure and see a physician. According to an MSU news release, interventions are especially important to protect infants, children, and pregnant women. PFAS accumulate in the body over a person’s life and can cross the placenta and accumulate in the fetus and pass into breast milk.

Types of PFAS have been linked to several health effects, including high cholesterol, several kinds of cancer, infertility, and low birth weight. Additionally, some of them have been associated with harm to the liver, kidneys, thyroid, and immune system.

Carignan’s research was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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