Serum perfluoroalkyl substances in residents following long-term drinking water contamination from firefighting foam in Ronneby, Sweden.

By Yiyi Xu, Christel Nielsen, Ying Li, Sofia Hammarstrand, Eva M Andersson, Huiqi Li, Daniel S Olsson, Karin Engström, Daniela Pineda, Christian H Lindh, Tony Fletcher, and Kristina Jakobsson
Environ Int
December 29, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2020.106333


In December 2013, it was discovered that drinking water supplied to one third of the households in Ronneby, southern Sweden, was highly contaminated by PFAS (sum level >10,000 ng/L) originated from firefighting foams used at a nearby military airport.


To report serum PFAS levels of Ronneby residents participating in a biomonitoring program, and to describe the variation by age, sex and calendar period for residential exposure. In addition, a reference group living in a neighboring municipality without PFAS contaminated drinking water was examined.


Blood samples and demographic data were collected for 3297 Ronneby residents and 226 individuals from the reference group. Yearly residence addresses were available for 3086 Ronneby residents from the national population registry. Serum concentrations of PFHxS, PFOS and PFOA were determined in all participants, with additional PFHpA, PFNA and PFDA in subsets of the participants.


The population geometric means for serum PFHxS, PFOS and PFOA were 114, 135 and 6.8 ng/mL for all Ronneby residents, i.e.135, 35 and 4.5 times higher than for the reference group. Ronneby residents who resided in the area with contaminated water supply during 2005-2013 showed much higher PFAS levels in 2014 than those exposed only before 2005. Ronneby residents who never resided in the area with contaminated water supply also had higher serum PFAS levels than the reference group. All three PFAS were highly correlated (r > 0.9 for each pair). Serum PFAS levels were lowest in teenage years and then increased with age. Adult females had lower PFAS levels on average than males under the age of 60 but higher above 60.


The results reveal high serum PFAS levels dominated by PFHxS and PFOS in the Ronneby residents highly exposed to PFAS originated from firefighting foams. The PFAS exposure in Ronneby permits studies of associations to a range of health parameters, as well as studies of the toxicokinetics of PFAS exposure.

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