Associations between PFAS occurrence and multimorbidity as observed in an electronic health record cohort

Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are associated with health outcomes ranging from cancer to high cholesterol. However, there has been little examination of how PFAS exposure might impact the development of multiple chronic diseases, known as multimorbidity. Here, we associated the presence of one or more PFAS in water systems serving the zip code of residence with chronic disease and multimorbidity.


We used data from the unregulated contaminant monitoring rule 3 to estimate exposure to PFAS for a random sample of 10,168 patients from the University of North Carolina Healthcare System. The presence of 16 chronic diseases was determined via. their electronic health records. We used a logistic regression model in a cross-sectional study design to associate the presence of one or more PFAS with multimorbidity. Models were adjusted for age, race, sex, smoking status, socioeconomic status, and 20 county-level confounders.


There were four PFAS found in water systems that served at least one zip code represented in our patient data: PFOA, PFHpA, PFOS, and PFHxS. Exposure to any PFAS was associated with a odds ratio of 1.25 for multimorbidity (95% confidence interval = 1.09, 1.45). Among the chronic diseases with at least 300 cases, we observed associations with dyslipidemia, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and osteoporosis.


Exposure to PFAS is associated with a range of chronic diseases as well as multimorbidity. Accounting for the joint impacts of PFAS on multiple chronic conditions may give an increasingly clear picture of the public health impacts of PFAS.


Chronic disease; Electronic health records; Multimorbidity; PFAS; PFHpA; PFOA.

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