Determinants of serum perfluoroalkyl acid concentrations in Swedish adolescents and the importance of drinking water as a source of exposure
Abstract: The persistent and toxic perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are ubiquitously present in the environment and reach humans predominantly via food and drinking water. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of low-grade (<10 ng L-1 of single PFAAs) contaminated PFAAs drinking water on serum PFAA concentrations in a representative Swedish adolescent population, and to examine the influence of potential determinants on the variation of the PFAAs serum concentrations. This was done by using multivariate regression analysis on the possible determinants of blood serum PFAA concentrations in 479 Swedish adolescents, 10 to 21 years of age, who had left complete dietary and life style information in 2016-17 in the nation-wide food consumption survey Riksmaten Ungdom. Raw and drinking water samples (DW) from water treatment plants (WTPs) that delivered DW to participants schools were sampled in 2018, analysed for PFAAs, and used for assessing the participants DW PFAA exposure. Maternal education level and maternal birth country, consumption of fish, as well as age and sex were significantly associated with the participants PFAAs serum concentrations. DW concentrations as low as <1 ng L for PFOA and PFHxS, <0.45 ng L-1 for PFNA and <4 ng L-1 for PFOS were significantly associated with increased adolescent serum concentrations of the PFAAs in question, which suggests that low-grade contaminated drinking water is an important exposure route for Swedish adolescents. For risk assessment purposes, it was investigated whether parts of the adolescent population exceeded the serum PFOS and PFOA concentrations corresponding to the current health-based reference intakes as assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Around 1.7% and 2.7% of participants had PFOS serum concentrations exceeding serum levels used to derive the tolerable daily intake (TDI) (EFSA) and the minimum risk level (MRL) (ATSDR), respectively and a cause for concern was consequently identified. However, the high serum concentrations of participants exceeding the TDI and MRL serum concentrations belong to participants suspected to have been previously exposed to highly contaminated drinking water and not from consuming foods and beverages containing background concentrations of PFAAs.
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