Higher serum concentrations of PFAS among pesticide exposed female greenhouse workers

By Helle Raun Andersen, Philippe Grandjean, Katharina M Main, Tina Kold Jensen, and Flemming Nielsen
Int J Hyg Environ Health
November 10, 2023
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2023.114292


Long-chained poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used in pesticide formulations but their potential impact on human PFAS exposure has not been addressed.


To investigate if occupationally pesticide exposed female greenhouse workers in Denmark had higher serum concentrations of PFAS than a comparable background population.


Serum samples collected between 1996 and 2001 from 181 pregnant greenhouse workers and a contemporary urban population of 48 pregnant women were analyzed for eight PFAS: perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluorooctane sulfonamide (FOSA), N-methyl perfluorooctane sulfonamido acetic acid (N-MeFOSAA), and N-ethyl perfluorooctane sulfonamido acetic acid (N-EtFOSAA).


The concentrations of PFOA, PFOS, and the PFOS precursors N-MeFOSAA, N-EtFOSAA, and FOSA were higher, and PFHxS was lower, among greenhouse workers than the comparison population. After adjusting for age and parity, serum concentrations of N-MeFOSAA, N-EtFOSAA, and FOSA were 2-to-3-fold higher, and the major PFAS in serum, PFOS and PFOA, were 30-50 % higher among the greenhouse workers.


Higher serum concentrations of some legacy PFAS among female greenhouse workers indicate that exposure to pesticides is a potential pathway of exposure. Although PFAS use in pesticide applications may appear to be a minor source of exposure for the general population, this pathway deserves attention in risk assessment.

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