Estimating human exposure to perfluoroalkyl acids via solid food and drinks: Implementation and comparison of different dietary assessment methods

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Abstract

Background

Diet is a major source of human exposure to hazardous environmental chemicals, including many perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs). Several assessment methods of dietary exposure to PFAAs have been used previously, but there is a lack of comparisons between methods.

Aim

To assess human exposure to PFAAs through diet by different methods and compare the results.

Methods

We studied the dietary exposure to PFAAs in 61 Norwegian adults (74% women, average age: 42 years) using three methods: i) by measuring daily PFAA intakes through a 1-day duplicate diet study (separately in solid and liquid foods), ii) by estimating intake after combining food contamination with food consumption data, as assessed by 2-day weighted food diaries and iii) by a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). We used existing food contamination data mainly from samples purchased in Norway and if not available, data from food purchased in other European countries were used. Duplicate diet samples (n=122) were analysed by liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to quantify 15 PFAAs (11 perfluoroalkyl carboxylates and 4 perfluoroalkyl sulfonates). Differences and correlations between measured and estimated intakes were assessed.

Results

The most abundant PFAAs in the duplicate diet samples were PFOA, PFOS and PFHxS and the median total intakes were 5.6 ng/day, 11 ng/day and 0.78 ng/day, respectively. PFOS and PFOA concentrations were higher in solid than liquid samples. PFOS was the main contributor to the contamination in the solid samples (median concentration 14 pg/g food), while it was PFOA in the liquid samples (median concentrations: 0.72 pg/g food). High intakes of fats, oils, and eggs were statistically significantly related to high intakes of PFOS and PFOA from solid foods. High intake of milk and consumption of alcoholic beverages, as well as food in paper container were related to high PFOA intakes from liquid foods.

Results

PFOA intakes derived from food diary and FFQ were significantly higher than those derived from duplicate diet, but intakes of PFOS derived from food diary and FFQ were significantly lower than those derived from duplicate diet. We found a positive and statistically significant correlation between the PFOS intakes derived from duplicate diet with those using the food diary (rho=0.26, p-value=0.041), but not with the FFQ. Additionally, PFOA intakes derived by duplicate diet were significantly correlated with estimated intakes from liquid food derived from the food diary (rho=0.34, p=0.008) and estimated intakes from the FFQ (rho=0.25, p-value=0.055).

Conclusions

We provide evidence that a food diary or a FFQ-based method can provide comparable intake estimates to PFOS and PFOA intakes derived from a duplicate diet study. These less burdensome methods are valuable and reliable tools to assess dietary exposure to PFASs in human studies.

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