Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in livestock and game species: a review

By A compilation of information from livestock and game species as a source of PFAS exposure to humans and discusses toxicokinetics and health effects in animals.
Sci. Total Environ.
February 17, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144795

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic, organic chemicals that resist environmental breakdown. The properties that made PFAS into an industrial success also led to persistence and bioaccumulation. As PFAS were widely used for many decades their presence is evident globally, and their persistence and potential for toxicity create concern for human, animal and environmental health. Following the precautionary principle, a reduction in human exposure is generally recommended.

The most significant source of human exposure to PFAS is dietary intake (food and water) with relevant exposure also via dust. As PFAS concentrations have been more frequently studied in aquatic food sources, there is less understanding of exposure via terrestrial animals. To further define human exposure via animal products, it is necessary to determine PFAS concentrations and persistence in terrestrial livestock and game species. Studies assessing ambient concentrations of PFAS have noted that, aside from point sources of contamination, there is generally low input of PFAS into terrestrial agricultural food chains. However, livestock and game species may be exposed to PFAS via contaminated air, water, soil, substrate or food, and the contribution of these exposures to PFAS concentrations in food products is less well studied.

This review focuses on perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAAs) and compiles information from terrestrial livestock and game species as a source of dietary exposure in humans, and discusses toxicokinetics and health effects in animals, while identifying future focus areas. Publications describing the transfer of PFAAs to farmed and hunted animals are scarce, and demonstrate large variability in distribution and elimination. We outline several relatively small, short-term studies in cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. While negative effects have not been noted, the poultry investigations were the only studies to explicitly assess health effects. Comparative information is presented on PFAA concentrations in livestock products and edible tissues of game animals.


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