Assessing Human Health Risks from Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS)-Impacted Vegetable Consumption: A Tiered Modeling Approach
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Irrigation water or soil contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) raises concerns among regulators tasked with protecting human health from potential PFAS-contaminated food crops, with several studies identifying crop uptake as an important exposure pathway.

We estimated daily dietary exposure intake of individual PFASs in vegetables for children and adults using Monte Carlo simulation in a tiered stochastic modeling approach: exposures were the highest for young children (1–2 years > adults > 3–5 years > 6–11 years > 12–19 years). Using the lowest available human health toxicity reference values (RfDs) and no additional exposure, estimated fifth percentile risk-based threshold concentrations in irrigation water were 38 ng/L (median 180 ng/L) for perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and 140 ng/L (median 850 ng/L) for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Thus, consumption of vegetables irrigated with PFAS-impacted water that meets the current 70 ng/L of PFOA and PFOS U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory for drinking water may or may not be protective of vegetable exposures to these contaminants. Hazard analyses using real-world PFAS-contaminated groundwater data for a hypothetical farm showed estimated exposures to most PFASs exceeding available or derived RfDs, indicating water-to-crop transfer is an important exposure pathway for communities with PFAS-impacted irrigation water.

Publication Summary

  • Geosyntec Authors: Jason Conder, Jennifer Arblaster
  • All Authors: Jason Conder, Jennifer Arblaster, Geosyntec Consultants; Christopher Higgins, Juliane Brown, Colorado School of Mines
  • Title: The Environmental Science & Technology Journal
  • Event or Publication: Publication
  • Practice Areas: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
  • Citation: Jason Conder, Ph.D., (California) and Jennifer Arblaster (Vermont) coauthored an article entitled “Assessing Human Health Risks from Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS)-Impacted Vegetable Consumption: A Tiered Modeling Approach” for publication in Environmental Science & Technology on November 17, 2020.
  • Date: November 17, 2020
  • Publication Type: Journal Article