Novel Insights into the Adverse Health Effects of per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances on the Kidney via Human Urine Metabolomics

By Anen He, Juan Li, Zhao Li, Yao Lu, Yong Liang, Zhen Zhou, Zhuo Man, Jitao Lv, Yawei Wang, and Guibin Jiang
Environ Sci Technol
October 18, 2023
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.3c06480

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) receive significant research attention due to their potential adverse effects on human health. Evidence shows that the kidney is one of the target organs of PFAS. In occupational exposure scenarios, high PFAS concentrations may adversely affect kidney metabolism, but whether this effect is reflected in the small metabolic molecules contained in urine remains unknown. In this study, 72 matched serum and urine samples from occupational workers of a fluorochemical manufactory as well as 153 urine samples from local residents were collected, and 23 PFAS levels were quantified. The concentrations of ΣPFAS in the serum and urine samples of workers were 5.43 ± 1.02 μg/mL and 201 ± 46.9 ng/mL, respectively, while the ΣPFAS concentration in the urine of the residents was 6.18 ± 0.76 ng/mL. For workers, high levels of urinary PFAS were strongly correlated with levels in serum ( = 0.57-0.93), indicating that urinary PFAS can be a good indicator for serum PFAS levels. Further, a urine nontargeted metabolomics study was conducted. The results of association models, including Bayesian kernel machine regression, demonstrated positive correlations between urinary PFAS levels and key small kidney molecules. A total of eight potential biomarkers associated with PFAS exposure were identified, and all of them showed significant positive correlations with markers of kidney function. These findings provide the first evidence that urine can serve as a matrix to indicate the adverse health effects of high levels of exposure to PFAS on the kidneys.

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