Superfund Research Program
Exposure Assessment and Chemometrics of PFASs
Project Leader: Elsie M. Sunderland (Harvard School of Public Health)
Grant Number: P42ES027706
Funding Period: 2017-2022
- Project Summary
In 2019, the project focused on better understanding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposures through drinking water, seafood, and consumer products. The research team published a new method for measuring the surficial (0.01 micrometers) PFAS content in consumer products using x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) that are most likely to be liberated upon use (Tokranov et al., 2019). Results showed that a large fraction of PFAS in consumer products are not captured by standard LC-MS/MS measurements (less than 1 percent for many products). Hu et al. (2019), showed that the relative source contribution of drinking water for a cohort of U.S. women in 1989-1990 was similar to the default value of 20 used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, a large increase in unidentified PFAS between 1989-1990 and 2016 was measured in pilot samples from five locations, suggesting the contribution of unidentified PFAS to human exposures through drinking water may be large. Similarly, Zhang et al. (2019) showed unexpected high levels of bioaccumulation of some short-chain PFAS between seawater and plankton, likely attributable to contributions from degradation of precursor compounds. The team’s ongoing work in the Cape Cod, Massachusetts region continues to investigate how these precursor compounds are being transformed and transported away from source regions and across groundwater and surface water interfaces. In collaboration with the PFAS Compound Effects on Metabolic Abnormalities in Rodents Project, the researchers also showed that both phospholipids and proteins are associated with the PFAS tissue distribution in a marine mammal and that highest concentrations are found in the liver and brain, likely through facilitated transport (Dassuncao et al., 2019).