Swedish researchers found that while the voluntary phase out of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in 2002 has led to a rapid decrease of PFOS’ and other perfluorinated  alkyl acids’ (PFAA) levels in blood serum, PFOS’ substitute perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) as well as PFHxS, PFNA and PFDA have increased since (Glynn, Berger et al. 2012). This was the first study to analyze 13 different PFAA and PFOA compounds in both maternal blood and fetal cord blood. They found a strong correlation between maternal blood levels in the third trimester and three weeks after delivery with fetal cord blood. This suggests that it is possible to use maternal blood levels as a good proxy for fetal exposure.

PFOA and PFAAs have strong repelling characteristics and are used as grease resistant coating, stain proofing agents and fire retardants in a wide range of consumer products including food packaging and cookware. Earlier studies had associated exposure to PFOAs with the consumption of foods contained in certain packaging materials, such as non-stick coatings (Begley, White et al. 2005). Yet, exposure assessment is complicated by the various production precursors as well as break down products like fluorinated alcohols. Fluorinated alcohols have shown to damage liver cells and PFOA is thought to have adverse effects on the liver, immune and endocrine system. Further, they are very persistent in human tissue (Steenland, Fletcher et al. 2010). Little is known about the toxicity of PFAAs.


Begley, T. H., K. White, P. Honigfort, M. L. Twaroski, R. Neches and R. A. Walker (2005). Perfluorochemicals: Potential sources of and migration from food packaging. Food Additives and Contaminants 22(10): 1023-1031.

Glynn, A., U. Berger, A. Bignert, S. Ullah, M. Aune, S. Lignell and P. O. Darnerud (2012). Perfluorinated Alkyl Acids in Blood Serum from Primiparous Women in Sweden: Serial Sampling during Pregnancy and Nursing, And Temporal Trends 1996–2010. Environmental Science & Technology 46(16): 9071-9079.

Steenland, K., T. Fletcher and D. A. Savitz (2010). Epidemiologic evidence on the health effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Environ Health Perspect 118(8): 1100-1108.