An article published on March 9, 2017 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters reports on the application of radiolabeling with fluorine-18 to study the uptake and distribution of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in the body. Jennifer Burkemper and colleagues from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, U.S., focused on the three perfluorocarboxylic acids of varying chain length, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, CAS 335-67-1), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA, CAS 307-24-4), and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA, CAS 375-22-4), and quantified their uptake in fifteen organs and tissues of male mice exposed by intravenous injection.

Uptake of all PFASs studied was detected in all organs and tissues surveyed, including the brain. The highest uptake of radiolabeled PFOA was observed in the liver, followed by femur (thigh bone) and lungs, of PFHxA in the liver and femur, and of PFBA in the stomach and liver. While PFOA has been largely phased out by industry, it is being replaced by short-chain PFASs such as PFHxA and PFBA, despite the insufficient knowledge on their toxicity and accumulation potential. An article published on March 29, 2017 by Newswise quoted one of the study’s co-authors, Graham Peaslee, who highlighted that “short-chain PFAS compounds . . . not only bind more effectively to blood, but they accumulate in different organs such as the brain and the stomach.”

In addition to the preliminary information on distribution of perfluorocarboxylic acids in the mammalian body, Burkemper’s study demonstrates the feasibility of using radiolabeling to study the uptake and distribution of any PFAS in biological systems. According to authors, this technique opens the possibility to measure PFAS uptake and distribution in human volunteers, as well as PFAS fate in the environment.

Read more

NewsWise (March 29, 2017). “Researchers track perfluorinated chemicals in the body.

ScienceDaily (March 29, 2017). “Tracking hazardous chemicals from fast-food wrappers in the body.

Dennis Pillion (April 3, 2017). “Cancer-linked chemicals build up in ‘every organ’ in mice, UAB researchers


Burkemper, J., et al. (2017). “Radiosynthesis and biological distribution of [18F]-labeled perfluorinated alkyl substances.Environmental Science & Technology Letters (published March 9, 2017).