May 6, 2021

Federal Agency Publishes New Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls

A new final toxicological profile for perfluoroalkyls is available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ATSDR describes perfluoroalkyls as a group of human-made chemicals that are not found naturally in the environment. Chemicals included in this group include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)—the two perfluoroalkyls made in the largest amounts in the United States—as well as perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA). According to ATSDR, perfluoroalkyls can be found in some firefighting foams and were used to protect products such as carpet and fabric. They were also used as a coating for paper and cardboard packaging.

ATSDR notes that exposure to perfluoroalkyls is widespread and that the main sources of exposure are contaminated food and water. Populations at risk for potentially high exposures to perfluoroalkyls include workers at perfluoroalkyl production and manufacturing facilities and communities located near fluorochemical facilities. For example, groundskeepers, maintenance workers, and construction or utility workers may be exposed to perfluoroalkyls as elevated concentrations of the chemicals have been measured in the air, soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater, and vegetation surrounding these facilities. According to ATSDR, research in humans suggests that high levels of certain perfluoroalkyls may lead to health effects such as increased cholesterol levels, changes in liver enzymes, decreased vaccine response in children, and increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.

ATSDR’s toxicological profiles characterize the toxicological and adverse health effects information for hazardous substances. Each peer-reviewed profile identifies and reviews the key literature that describes a substance's toxicological properties. Information on the potential for human exposure; chemical and physical properties; regulations and guidelines; and production, import, use, and disposal can also be found in ATSDR’s toxicological profiles. A full list of toxic substances with published profiles is available on the agency’s website.