Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA): No high-level accumulation in human lung and kidney tissue

By Klaus Abraham, Ahmed H El-Khatib, Tanja Schwerdtle, and Bernhard H Monien
Int J Hyg Environ Health
August 30, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2021.113830

Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) belongs to the complex group of synthetic perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which have led to ubiquitous environmental contamination. While some of the long-chain compounds accumulate in the human body, the short-chain compound PFBA was found to have a relatively short half-life in blood of a few days, in agreement with relatively low PFBA serum/plasma levels of roughly 0.01 ng/ml in European studies. Surprisingly, very high median levels of PFBA of 807 and 263 ng/g tissue for human lung and kidney autopsy samples, respectively, were reported in a paper of Pérez et al. (2013). This would question the concept of PFAS blood analysis reflecting the body burden of these compounds. To verify the results of high PFBA tissue accumulation in humans, we have analyzed PFBA in a set of 7 lung and 9 kidney samples from tumor patients with a different method of quantification, using high-resolution mass spectrometry with the accurate mass as analytical parameter. The only human sample with a quantifiable amount of PFBA (peak area more than twice above the analytical background signals) contained approximately 0.17 ng/g lung tissue. In the light of our results and considering the analytical problems with the short-chain compound PFBA exhibiting only one mass fragmentation, it appears to be likely that PFBA is not accumulating on a high level in human lung and kidney tissue. In general, the analysis of short-chain PFAS in complex matrices like food or tissue is very challenging with respect to instrumental quantification and possible sample contamination.

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