Perfluoroalkyl substances and fish consumption

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Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are an emerging class of contaminants. Certain PFAS are regulated or voluntarily limited due to concern about environmental persistence and adverse health effects, including thyroid disease and dyslipidemia. The major source of PFAS exposure in the general population is thought to be consumption of seafood.


In this analysis we examine PFAS levels and their determinants, as well as associations between PFAS levels and self-reported fish and shellfish consumption, using a representative sample of the U.S. population.


Data on PFAS levels and self-reported fish consumption over the past 30 days were collected from the 2007–2008, 2009–2010, 2011–2012, and 2013–2014 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Twelve different PFAS were measured in serum samples from participants. Ordinary least squares regression models were used to identify factors (demographic characteristics and fish consumption habits) associated with serum PFAS concentrations. Additional models were further adjusted for other potential exposures including military service and consumption of ready-to-eat and fast foods.


Seven PFAS were detected in at least 30% of participants and were examined in subsequent analyses (PFDA, PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, MPAH, PFNA, PFUA). The PFAS with the highest concentrations were PFOS, followed by PFOA, PFHxS and PFNA (medians of 8.3, 2.7, 1.5 and 1.0 ng/mL). Fish consumption was generally low, with a median of 1.2 fish meals and 0.14 shellfish meals, reported over the past 30 days. After adjusting for demographic characteristics, total fish consumption was associated with reduced MPAH, and with elevated PFDE, PFNA and PFuDA. Shellfish consumption was associated with elevations of all PFAS examined except MPAH. Certain specific fish and shellfish types were also associated with specific PFAS. Adjustment for additional exposure variables resulted in little to no change in effect estimates for seafood variables.


PFAS are emerging contaminants with widespread exposure, persistence, and potential for adverse health effects. In the general population, fish and shellfish consumption are associated with PFAS levels, which may indicate an avenue for education and outreach.

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