Emerging and Legacy Perfluoroalkyl Substances in Breastfed Chinese Infants: Renal Clearance, Body Burden, and Implications

By Jingzhi Yao, Zhaomin Dong, Lulin Jiang, Yitao Pan, Meirong Zhao, Xiaoxia Bai, and Jiayin Dai
Environ Health Perspect
March 2, 2023
DOI: 10.1289/EHP11403


Human breast milk is a primary route of exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in infants. To understand the associated risks, the occurrence of PFAS in human milk and the toxicokinetics of PFAS in infants need to be addressed.


We determined levels of emerging and legacy PFAS in human milk and urine samples from Chinese breastfed infants, estimated renal clearance, and predicted infant serum PFAS levels.


In total, human milk samples were collected from 1,151 lactating mothers in 21 cities in China. In addition, 80 paired infant cord blood and urine samples were obtained from two cities. Nine emerging PFAS and 13 legacy PFAS were analyzed in the samples using ultra high-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Renal clearance rates () of PFAS were estimated in the paired samples. PFAS serum concentrations in infants ( year of age) were predicted using a first-order pharmacokinetic model.


All nine emerging PFAS were detected in human milk, with the detection rates of 6:2 Cl-PFESA, PFMOAA, and PFO5DoDA all exceeding 70%. The level of 6:2 Cl-PFESA in human milk () ranked third after PFOA () and PFOS (). The estimated daily intake (EDI) values of PFOA and PFOS exceeded the reference dose (RfD) of recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 78% and 17% of breastfed infant samples, respectively. 6:2 Cl-PFESA had the lowest infant (), corresponding to the longest estimated half-life of 49 y. The average half-lives of PFMOAA, PFO2HxA, and PFO3OA were 0.221, 0.075, and 0.304 y, respectively. The of PFOA, PFNA, and PFDA were slower in infants than in adults.


Our results demonstrate the widespread occurrence of emerging PFAS in human milk in China. The relatively high EDIs and half-lives of emerging PFAS suggest potential health risks of postnatal exposure in newborns. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP11403.

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