Accumulation of PFAS by livestock - determination of transfer factors from water to serum for cattle and sheep in Australia

By Roger Drew, Tarah G Hagen, and David Champness
Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess
August 4, 2021
DOI: 10.1080/19440049.2021.1942562

In this study accumulation has been determined of several per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from ingested water to steady state serum concentration for adult beef cattle and sheep raised on a hobby farm impacted by PFAS contamination. PFAS concentrations in stock water were stable for more than a year, they were non-measurable in grass but present at very low levels in soil which equated to just 1% of the intake from water. Prior to quantifying PFAS in cattle serum there had been no breeding for 18 months. Although there were high concentrations of several PFAS in the water, only perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and perfluorohexane sulphonate (PFHxS) were in cattle serum in appreciable amounts; perfluoroheptane sulphonate (PFHpS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) were much lower. Transfer factors (TFs) for cattle were calculated by dividing steady state serum concentration (ng PFAS/mL) by water concentration (µg PFAS/L). Average and upper estimate TF values for cattle were calculated; the former were 140 (total PFOS, i.e. tPFOS), 130 (PFHpS), 65 (PFHxS), 170 (PFNA), and 120 (PFDA). Previous investigation campaigns at the farm provided relative steady state serum PFAS concentrations for sheep and cattle that allowed adjustment of the cattle TFs. The resulting average estimate TFs for ewes (non-pregnant and not lactating) were 20 (tPFOS) and 30 (PFHxS), other PFAS were not measurable in sheep serum. Discussion on using these TFs in human health risk assessments is provided. With certain assumptions/caveats the TFs allow estimations of PFAS steady state serum concentrations for use in preliminary human health risk assessments (HHRAs) when only PFAS in stock water is known.

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