Human exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through drinking water: A review of the recent scientific literature

By José L. Domingo and Martí Nadal
Environmental Research
August 18, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.108648


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of water-soluble chemical compounds with an important number of applications, which have been widely used during the last 60 years. Two of them, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are the most known and well investigated. As for many other organic substances that are of environmental concern, the diet is the main route of human exposure to PFAS. However, in certain cases drinking water may also mean a significant contribution to human exposure, and to a lesser extent, dust and air (indoor exposure). In recent years, the environmental persistence of PFAS, their biomagnification in food webs, as well as their potential accumulation and toxicity, have generated a notable interest, which has been evidenced by the considerable number of publications in this regard. Recently, we carried out a wide revision on the levels of PFAS in food and human dietary intake. In the current review, we have summarized the recent information (last 10 years) published in the scientific literature (Scopus and PubMed) on the concentrations of PFAS in drinking water and the human health risks derived from the regular water consumption, when available. A large amount of data belongs to PFOS and PFOA and corresponds to studies mainly conducted in countries of the European Union, USA and China, although no information is available for most countries over the world. According to the toxicological information about PFAS that is so far available, the current health risks for the regular consumers of municipal/tap water do not seem to be of concern according to the levels considered as acceptable for various regulatory institutions.



• Drinking water may mean a significant contribution to human exposure to PFAS.

• Recent data on the levels of PFAS in drinking/tap water over the world are here reviewed.

• When available, the intake of PFAS through drinking water is also presented.

• For most countries, exposure to PFAS through drinking water is not of special concern.

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