Internal Relative Potency Factors for the Risk Assessment of Mixtures of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Human Biomonitoring

By Wieneke Bil, Marco J. Zeilmaker, and Bas G.H. Bokkers
September 26, 2022
DOI: 10.1289/EHP10009


In human biomonitoring, blood is often used as a matrix to measure exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Because the toxicokinetics of a substance (determining the steady-state blood concentration) may affect the toxic potency, the difference in toxicokinetics among PFAS has to be accounted for when blood concentrations are used in mixture risk assessment.


This research focuses on deriving relative potency factors (RPFs) at the blood serum level. These RPFs can be applied to PFAS concentrations in human blood, thereby facilitating mixture risk assessment with primary input from human biomonitoring studies.


Toxicokinetic models are generated for 10 PFAS to estimate the internal exposure in the male rat at the blood serum level over time. By applying dose–response modeling, these internal exposures are used to derive quantitative internal RPFs based on liver effects.


Internal RPFs were successfully obtained for nine PFAS. Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorododecanoic acid (PFDoDA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), and hexafluoropropylene oxide-dimer acid (HFPO-DA, or GenX) were found to be more potent than perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at the blood serum level in terms of relative liver weight increase, whereas perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) were found to be less potent. The practical implementation of these internal RPFs is illustrated using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) biomonitoring data of 2017–2018.


It is recommended to assess the health risk resulting from exposure to PFAS as combined, aggregate exposure to the extent feasible.


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