Calculation of chemical elimination half-life from blood with an ongoing exposure source: the example of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Chemosphere. 2015 Jun;129:210-6. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.07.061. Epub 2014 Aug 20.


Determination of the chemical clearance rate from human blood is a critical component of toxicokinetic exposure assessment. Analysis of temporal biomonitoring data without consideration of ongoing exposure results in calculation of apparent elimination half-life values that are longer than the intrinsic value. The intrinsic elimination half-life is solely a function of the rate of elimination while the apparent elimination half-life reflects the processes of both elimination and ongoing exposure. Confusion between intrinsic and apparent half-life values can lead to misinterpretation of biomonitoring data and can result in exaggerated predictions in subsequent modeling efforts. This work provides a review of the first-order equations that have been developed to calculate intrinsic and apparent half-life values and the potential bias that can result from confusing these two values. Published human biomonitoring data for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are analyzed using these equations to provide examples of low, medium and high bias in determination of the intrinsic elimination half-life from plasma or serum, the components of blood typically analyzed for PFOA. An approach is also provided to estimate the extent of exposure reduction that is indicated by declining longitudinal or cross-sectional biomonitoring data. Based on the evaluation methodology presented in this work, the intrinsic elimination half-life of PFOA in humans is 2.4years, representing the average of independent estimates of 2.5years (95% CI, 2.4-2.7) and 2.3years (95% CI, 2.1-2.4). The declining concentration of PFOA in blood of the general USA adult population represents an estimated exposure reduction of 20-30% over the period 1999-2008.

Keywords: Background exposure; Elimination; Half-life; Perfluorooctanoic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caprylates / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fluorocarbons / pharmacokinetics*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans


  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluorooctanoic acid