Serum Half-Lives for Short- and Long-Chain Perfluoroalkyl Acids after Ceasing Exposure from Drinking Water Contaminated by Firefighting Foam

By Yiyi Xu, Tony Fletcher, Daniela Pineda, Christian H Lindh, Carina Nilsson, Anders Glynn, Carolina Vogs, Karin Norström, Karl Lilja, Kristina Jakobsson, and Ying Li
Environ. Health Perspect.
July 13, 2020
DOI: 10.1289/EHP6785


Firefighting foam-contaminated ground water, which contains high levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), is frequently found around airports. In 2018 it was detected that employees at a municipal airport in northern Sweden had been exposed to high levels of short-chain PFAS along with legacy PFAS (i.e., PFOA, PFHxS, and PFOS) through drinking water.


In this study, we aimed to describe the PFAS profile in drinking water and biological samples (paired serum and urine) and to estimate serum half-lives of the short-chain PFAS together with legacy PFAS.


Within 2 weeks after provision of clean water, blood sampling was performed in all 26 airport employees. Seventeen of them were then followed up monthly for 5 months. PFHxA, PFHpA, PFBS, PFPeS, and PFHpS together with legacy PFAS in water and biological samples were quantified using LC/MS/MS. Half-lives were estimated by assuming one compartment, first-order elimination kinetics.


The proportions of PFHxA, PFHpA, and PFBS were higher in drinking water than in serum. The opposite was found for PFHxS and PFOS. The legacy PFAS accounted for about 50% of total PFAS in drinking water and 90% in serum. Urinary PFAS levels were very low compared with serum. PFBS showed the shortest half-life {average 44 d [95% confidence interval (CI): 37, 55 d]}, followed by PFHpA [62 d (95% CI: 51, 80 d)]. PFPeS and PFHpS showed average half-lives as 0.63 and 1.46 y, respectively. Branched PFOS isomers had average half-lives ranging from 1.05 to 1.26 y for different isomers. PFOA, PFHxS, and linear PFOS isomers showed average half-lives of 1.77, 2.87, and 2.93 y, respectively.


A general pattern of increasing half-lives with increasing chain length was observed. Branched PFOS isomers had shorter half-lives than linear PFOS isomers.

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