Research defines PFAS planetary boundary and calculates human health costs


In a perspective article published on August 2, 2022, in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, Ian T. Cousins and co-authors from Stockholm University and ETH Zurich, hypothesized that per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) in the environment represent a planetary boundary that has now been exceeded. To test their hypothesis, Cousins et al. compared levels of PFAS measured in rainwater, surface water, and soils with guideline values. Specifically, they looked at the perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), including perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane-sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

Based on the calculations for these four PFAA, Cousins and co-authors concluded that “PFAS define a new planetary boundary that has been exceeded, based on PFAS levels in environmental media being ubiquitously above guideline levels.” For instance, concentrations of PFOA and PFOS measured in rainwater are often higher than US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory levels which are 0.004 ng/L for PFOA and 0.020 ng/L for PFOS. Notably, even in remote areas such as the Tibetan Plateau PFOA rainwater concentrations exceed that limit by approximately 14 times.

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Food Packaging Forum, 03-08-22