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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Serum Half-Lives for Short- and Long-Chain Perfluoroalkyl Acids after Ceasing Exposure from Drinking Water Contaminated by Firefighting Foam

Xu, Yiyi; Fletcher, Tony; Pineda, Daniela; Lindh, Christian H.; Nilsson, Carina; Glynn, Anders; Vogs, Carolina; Norström, Karin; Lilja, Karl; Jakobsson, Kristina; Li, Ying


Background: Firefighting foam–contaminated ground water, which contains high levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), is frequently found around airports. In 2018 it was detected that employees at a municipal airport in northern Sweden had been exposed to high levels of short-chain PFAS along with legacy PFAS (i.e., PFOA, PFHxS, and PFOS) through drinking water.

Objectives: In this study, we aimed to describe the PFAS profile in drinking water and biological samples (paired serum and urine) and to estimate serum half-lives of the short-chain PFAS together with legacy PFAS.

Methods: Within 2 weeks after provision of clean water, blood sampling was performed in all 26 airport employees. Seventeen of them were then followed up monthly for 5 months. PFHxA, PFHpA, PFBS, PFPeS, and PFHpS together with legacy PFAS in water and biological samples were quantified using LC/MS/MS. Half-lives were estimated by assuming one compartment, first-order elimination kinetics.

Results: The proportions of PFHxA, PFHpA, and PFBS were higher in drinking water than in serum. The opposite was found for PFHxS and PFOS. The legacy PFAS accounted for about 50% of total PFAS in drinking water and 90% in serum. Urinary PFAS levels were very low compared with serum. PFBS showed the shortest half-life {average 44 d [95% confidence interval (CI): 37, 55 d]}, followed by PFHpA [62 d (95% CI: 51, 80 d)]. PFPeS and PFHpS showed average half-lives as 0.63 and 1.46 y, respectively. Branched PFOS isomers had average half-lives ranging from 1.05 to 1.26 y for different isomers. PFOA, PFHxS, and linear PFOS isomers showed average half-lives of 1.77, 2.87, and 2.93 y, respectively.

Discussion: A general pattern of increasing half-lives with increasing chain length was observed. Branched PFOS isomers had shorter half-lives than linear PFOS isomers.

Published in

Environmental Health Perspectives
2020, Volume: 128, number: 7, article number: 077004

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG3 Good health and well-being

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Environmental Health and Occupational Health

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