Fluorinated surfactants

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The text on this page is taken from an equivalent page of the IEHIAS-project.
  • A very diverse group, which all share an extreme persistence towards degradation.
  • Major groups are perfluoroalkylsulfonic acids (e.g. PFOS), perfluorinated carboxylic acids (e.g. PFOA) and fluorotelomers.

Fluorinated surfactants as biomarkers

Sample collection and storage


  • Perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are often associated with plasma albumin binding, which makes blood a suitable matrix.
  • Few studies have shown significant concentrations of PFAS in human milk
  • Cord blood may be a good indicator matrix as well.


  • The major exposure pathway of PFAS in by food
  • Also exposure through inhalation of particle-bound PFAS has been observed
  • PFAS are generally very inert and not likely to degrade
  • Serum elimination half-life in occupationally exposed workers is estimated to be 8.7 years.

Sampling conditions:

  • Blood samples can be taken using standard procedures, and are stored frozen at -20°C.
  • Fluorotelomers are more volatile and need special attention.

Sample measurement

Analytical aspects:

  • Because of the ubiquitous nature of PFAS, avoiding contamination of the samples is a major challenge.
  • Analysis is usually performed using GC/MS or LC/MS techniques
  • Detection limits depend on which matrix and compound is analysed

Performance characteristics:

  • A first worldwide interlaboratory study highlighted that there are large differences in analytical performance
  • Variations are mainly due to extraction and clean-up procedures.


No particular guidelines for PFAS analysis in human tissues are available

Confounding factors:

Only gender has been illustrated to be a confounder, with higher serum concentrations of PFOS in males.

Data interpretation

Concentrations reported in literature:

PFOS Female PFOS Male PFHxS Female PFHxS Male PFOA Female PFOA Male PFOSA Female PFOSA Male
Maximum (ng/ml) 81 72 3,3 3,4 30,9 38,1 5,8 5,8
Minimum (ng/ml) 2,5 1,3 0,2 0,2 2,4 3,5 0,7 1

Dose-response/effect relationships:

  • Most toxicological data is available for rodents,
  • Very little epidemiological data for humans is available
  • The NOAEL for males and females was considered to be around 0,03 mg/kg/day and 0,15 mg/kg/day respectively.

Time trend, geographical variation, susceptibel groups:

  • Substantial increases of PFAS concentrations in the environment have been reported over the last decades.
  • With the voluntary production stop of PFOS, concentrations are expected to decrease in the future.

See also

Integrated Environmental Health Impact Assessment System
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