Systematic Evidence Map for Over One Hundred and Fifty Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

By Laura M Carlson, Michelle Angrish, Avanti V Shirke, Elizabeth G Radke, Brittany Schulz, Andrew Kraft, Richard Judson, Grace Patlewicz, Robyn Blain, Cynthia Lin, Nicole Vetter, Courtney Lemeris, Pamela Hartman, Heidi Hubbard, Xabier Arzuaga, Allen Davis, Laura V Dishaw, Ingrid L Druwe, Hillary Hollinger, Ryan Jones, J Phillip Kaiser, Lucina Lizarraga, Pamela D Noyes, Michele Taylor, Andrew J Shapiro, Antony J Williams, and Kristina A Thayer
Environ Health Perspect
May 24, 2022
DOI: 10.1289/EHP10343


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large class of synthetic (man-made) chemicals widely used in consumer products and industrial processes. Thousands of distinct PFAS exist in commerce. The 2019 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan outlines a multiprogram national research plan to address the challenge of PFAS. One component of this strategy involves the use of systematic evidence map (SEM) approaches to characterize the evidence base for hundreds of PFAS.


SEM methods were used to summarize available epidemiological and animal bioassay evidence for a set of PFAS that were prioritized in 2019 by the U.S. EPA's Center for Computational Toxicology and Exposure (CCTE) for toxicity and toxicokinetic assay testing.


Systematic review methods were used to identify and screen literature using manual review and machine-learning software. The Populations, Exposures, Comparators, and Outcomes (PECO) criteria were kept broad to identify mammalian animal bioassay and epidemiological studies that could inform human hazard identification. A variety of supplemental content was also tracked, including information on model systems; exposure measurement-only studies in humans; and absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME). Animal bioassay and epidemiology studies meeting PECO criteria were summarized with respect to study design, and health system(s) were assessed. Because animal bioassay studies with exposure duration (or reproductive/developmental study design) were most useful to CCTE analyses, these studies underwent study evaluation and detailed data extraction. All data extraction is publicly available online as interactive visuals with downloadable metadata.


More than 40,000 studies were identified from scientific databases. Screening processes identified 44 animal and 148 epidemiology studies from the peer-reviewed literature and 95 animal and 50 epidemiology studies from gray literature that met PECO criteria. Epidemiological evidence (available for 15 PFAS) mostly assessed the reproductive, endocrine, developmental, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune systems. Animal evidence (available for 40 PFAS) commonly assessed effects in the reproductive, developmental, urinary, immunological, and hepatic systems. Overall, 45 PFAS had evidence across animal and epidemiology data streams.


Many of the PFAS were data poor. Epidemiological and animal evidence were lacking for most of the PFAS included in our search. By disseminating this information, we hope to facilitate additional assessment work by providing the initial scoping literature survey and identifying key research needs. Future research on data-poor PFAS will help support a more complete understanding of the potential health effects from PFAS exposures.

View on PubMed