Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers
 
 

 

 

Kannan, K, S Corsolini, J Falandysz, G Fillmann, KS Kumar, BG Loganathan, MA Mohd, J Olivero, N Van Wouwe, JH Yang, KM Aldous. 2004. Perfluorooctanesulfonate and Related Fluorochemicals in Human Blood from Several Countries. Environmental Science and Technology, in press. DOI: 10.1021/es0493446.


Based on human samples from 5 different continents, this study documents widespread human contamination by highly persistent chemicals involved in making Teflon, Scotchgard and related products. The highest levels were found in people in the US and Poland. The lowest levels were measured in India.

The chemicals studied belong to a family of compounds called perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. PFCs have become the focus of public health concern over the past 5 years as studies have revealed their extreme persistence and as data have emerged about their toxicity.

PFCs are used in a wide diversity of products not just the name-brand products above but also an array of industrial and consumer products, including various protective, stain-resistant coatings for carpets and apparel, paper coatings, insecticides, and surfactants.

PFC compounds are typically derived from perfluorooctanesulfonyl fluoride (POSF). Two derivatives, PFOS and PFOA, have attracted considerable attention. PFOS was used to make the stain repellant Scotchgard, until 3M withdrew it from the market. PFOA is used in the manufacture of Teflon. It has become the focus of legal proceedings against DuPont for contamination of drinking water in the Ohio River Valley, which may result [as of late July 2004] in EPA fining DuPont over $100 million.

What did they do?

The research team obtained 473 human blood samples from anonymous, voluntary subjects in Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, India, Italy, Poland and the United States. Data from a previous study of Japan also were incorporated. No identifying information other than age, gender, sampling location, date of collection, smoking habits and alcohol consumption were included. Blood samples were collected either as whole blood, serum serum (popup: what is left of blood after it is allowed to clot, including plasma), or plasma. Results were reported in terms of serum (whole blood data was multiplied by a factor of 2) or plasma.

Four types of PFC--PFOS, PFHxS, PFOA, and PFOSA--were measured using a high-performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC) with an electrospray tandem mass spectrometer (ES-MS/MS).

What did they find?

PFOS was the most frequently detected PFC. Samples from the United States and Poland averaged greater than 30 ng/mL, the highest of the countries surveyed.

 

Data from Kannan et al., Table 3

 

Sample PFOS concentrations from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Belgium, and Brazil averaged between 10 and 25 ng/mL while samples from Italy and Colombia averaged between 4 and 10 ng/mL. Samples from India had the lowest average PFOS concentration at less than 3 ng/mL. In fact, based on limitations imposed by experimentation methods, researchers estimate the average PFOS concentration of Indian samples to be closer to 1 ng/mL.

 

  Generally, PFOA concentrations were 2 to 7 times lower than PFOS concentrations with the exception of several samples from Korea, most notably two cases of more than 100 ng/mL, suggesting a specific local source of PFOS.

 

Concentrations of PFHxS were generally 10 to 20 times lower than PFOS in the United States and Japan, even lower in Colombia and Poland, and slightly higher in India and Italy, where researchers suspect PFHxS has a greater presence as an impurity than in other countries. PFOSA was found in samples from the United States ( Kentucky), Colombia, and Poland. Levels were generally low, but concentrations as high as 26 ng/mL were detected in the U.S.

There was no overall association between PFOS or PFOA concentrations and gender; however researchers did report higher concentrations in females in Japan and higher concentrations in males in Poland. Researchers attributed these findings to confounding factors such as differences sample size and frequency of detection, rather than a true gender association. Similarly, there was no overall association between age and PFC concentration.

 

What this means:

This research reveals widespread contamination of human tissues by PFCs, with geographic differences in contamination levels. Kannan et al. suggest the variability may result from differences among countries in the uses of products containing PFCs, such as packing products, snack-food cartons, carpet sprays, stain-resistant materials, and cleaners. Some of these are more likely to be found in highly-developed, commercialized countries such as the United States than in countries such as India.

They conclude by recommending further research into specific pathways of exposure, and that hazard assessments of PFCs explicitly take into account the presence of PFC mixtures.

 
   
   

 

 

 

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