Perfluorinated compounds--exposure assessment for the general population in Western countries

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2009 May;212(3):239-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2008.04.007. Epub 2008 Jun 18.


Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) can currently be detected in many environmental media and biota, as well as in humans. Because of their persistence and their potential to accumulate they are of toxicological concern. The present review presents the current knowledge of PFC monitoring data in environmental media relevant for human exposure. In this context, PFC concentrations in indoor and ambient air, house dust, drinking water and food are outlined. Furthermore, we summarize human biomonitoring data of PFC levels in blood, breast milk, and human tissues. An estimate of the overall exposure of the general adult population is provided and compared with tolerable intake values. Using a simplified model, the average (and upper) level of daily exposure including all potential routes amounts to 1.6 ng/kg(body weight) (8.8 ng/kg(body weight)) for PFOS and 2.9 ng/kg(body weight) (12.6 ng/kg(body weight)) for PFOA in adults in the general population. The majority of exposure can be attributed to the oral route, mainly to diet. Overall, the contribution of PFOS and PFOA precursors to total exposure seems to be limited. Besides this background exposure of the general population, a specific additional exposure may occur which causes an increased PFC body burden. This has been observed in populations living near PFC production facilities or in areas with environmental contamination of PFCs. The consumption of highly contaminated fish products may also cause an increase in PFC body burdens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / analysis*
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Humans
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Western World


  • Air Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical