Environmental and dietary exposure of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid in the Nakdong River, Korea

By Geun-Hyoung Choi, Deuk-Yeong Lee, Pennante Bruce-Vanderpuije, Ah-Reum Song, Hyo-Sub Lee, Sang-Won Park, Jin-Hwan Lee, David Megson, and Jin-Hyo Kim
Environ Geochem Health
September 22, 2020
DOI: 10.1007/s10653-020-00721-0

This study performed the first environmental and dietary exposure assessment to explore plant uptake of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) from agricultural soil and irrigation water in the Nakdong River delta, South Korea. Annual average concentrations of total PFOA and PFOS ranged from 0.026 to 0.112 µg L (irrigation water), and from 0.818 to 1.364 µg kg (soil), respectively. PFOA and PFOS hotspots were identified downstream of the Nakdong River and were influenced by seasonal climatic variations. The observed average biennial concentration of the sum of PFOA and PFOS decreased in irrigation water, from 0.112 µg L in 2013 to 0.026 µg L in 2015, suggests that the 2013 Persistent Organic Pollutants Control Act may have helped to reduce levels of PFAS at this location. This study calculated some of the highest plant uptake factors reported to date, with values ranging from 0.962 in green onions to < 0.004 in plums. Leafy vegetables and rice are important components of the Korean diet; these groups had the largest contribution to the estimated dietary intake of PFOA and PFOS, which was calculated at 0.449 and 0.140 ng kg day, respectively. This corresponded to 66.4% for PFOA and 7.9% for PFOS of the EFSA reference dose (RfD). The dietary intake of PFOA and PFOS from crops alone did not exceed the RfD. However, when the estimated daily intake (EDI) from other sources such as tap water, meat, fish, dairy, and beverages was included in the exposure risk assessment, both of the EDIs to PFOA and PFOS exceeded the RfDs, indicating that there may be a risk to human health. This study concludes that consumption of crops might, therefore, be a significant and underappreciated pathway for human exposure to PFAS.

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