Behavioural effects and bioconcentration of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos

By Frank Menger, Johannes Pohl, Lutz Ahrens, Gunnar Carlsson and Stefan Örn
December 25, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.125573

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) that cause concern regarding their environmental impact and risk to human health. In this study, zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos were exposed to PFASs for six days, to investigate behaviour toxicity and bioconcentration factor (BCF). Nine individual PFASs (five C4–C8 perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFCAs) (PFPeA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, PFNA), three C4, C6 and C8 perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFSAs) (PFBS, PFHxS, PFOS) and 6:2 fluorotelomersulfonate (6:2 FTSA)) and a mixture of these were investigated at seven concentrations ranging from environmentally relevant to acutely toxic levels. In exposed embryos, significant differences were found in total swimming distance (PFHpA, PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS, PFOS, 6:2 FTSA, PFAS mixture), burst activity (PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS, PFOS, PFAS mixture) and startle response (PFNA, PFHxS, PFOS, PFAS mixture). Toxicity was only observed at concentrations well above environmental levels. The toxicity of the PFAS mixture generally followed that of the individual substances, but the mixture reduced the potencies of individual PFASs. BCF was determined for all nine PFASs and ranged between 0.9 (PFPeA) and 2700 (PFOS). Long-chain PFASs (C8) and PFASs with sulfonate as an active group showed the greatest toxic potential, while short-chain PFASs (C6 and C7) also caused significant behaviour alterations and accumulated in the embryos. To our knowledge, this is the first study to compare the behaviour toxicity of a PFAS mixture with that of the individual PFASs. Follow-up studies are needed to identify the mechanistic responses to PFAS mixtures.

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