First perfluorochemicals found in human blood

For the first time, a group of perfluorochemicals used on food wrappers has been identified in human blood at low part-per-billion concentrations. The chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl phosphoric acid diesters (diPAPs), also were found at concentrations about 100 times higher in sewage sludge. These findings, published in ES&T (DOI 10.1021/es900100d) by chemistry graduate student Jessica D’eon at the University of Toronto and colleagues, provide new clues about people’s exposure to perfluorochemicals but further complicate investigations into the fate and transport of these compounds, say academic scientists.

The ubiquitous presence of perfluorochemicals, most notably perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and concerns about their potential toxicity in humans and in wildlife have raised numerous questions about exposure to and sources of these chemicals. Determining the sources of this exposure has been complicated because these chemicals are usually not sold as commercial products; they are breakdown products or processing aids used to make other commercial chemicals.

Because diPAPs are commercial products themselves, it will be easier to trace back exposures and sources, says D’eon. “There is a much clearer link between food packaging and the presence of these diPAPs in blood,” she says. Environmental engineer Keri Hornbuckle at the University of Iowa agrees: “Finding these chemicals in paper products gives us a link from the product side to human blood. Then finding them in sewage sludge gives us a link on the other end, and that is crucial if you want to reduce exposure,” she says.

Ongoing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) studies indicate that diPAPs and other perfluorinated chemicals used to make food wrappers grease-proof can migrate into some foods at levels up to several hundred times higher than current FDA-approved guidelines; this suggests an overlooked and potentially important source of human exposure (Food Addit. Contam., Part A 2008, 25, 384−390).

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