Biomarker-based calibration of retrospective exposure predictions of perfluorooctanoic acid

Environ Sci Technol. 2014 May 20;48(10):5636-42. doi: 10.1021/es4053736. Epub 2014 May 1.


Estimated historical exposures and serum concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been extensively used in epidemiologic studies that examined associations between PFOA exposures and adverse health outcomes among residents in highly exposed areas in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Using measured serum PFOA levels in 2005-2006, we applied two calibration methods to these retrospective exposure predictions: (1) multiplicative calibration and (2) Bayesian pharmacokinetic calibration with larger adjustments to more recent exposure estimates and smaller adjustments to exposure estimates for years farther in the past. We conducted simulation studies of various hypothetical exposure scenarios and compared hypothetical true historical intake rates with estimates based on mis-specified baseline exposure and pharmacokinetic models to find the method with the least bias. The Bayesian method outperformed the multiplicative method if a change to bottled water consumption was not reported or if the half-life of PFOA was mis-specified. On the other hand, the multiplicative method outperformed the Bayesian method if actual tap water consumption rates were systematically overestimated. If tap water consumption rates gradually decreased over time because of substitution with bottled water or other liquids, neither method clearly outperformed another. Calibration of retrospective exposure estimates using recently collected biomarkers may help reduce uncertainties in environmental epidemiologic studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Calibration
  • Caprylates / blood*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Ohio
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • perfluorooctanoic acid