Human Exposure and Elimination Kinetics of Chlorinated Polyfluoroalkyl Ether Sulfonic Acids (Cl-PFESAs)

Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Mar 1;50(5):2396-404. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b05849. Epub 2016 Feb 11.


The incomplete mass-balance of organic fluorine in human serum indicates the existence of unknown per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) with persistent and bioaccumulative properties. Here we characterized human exposure and elimination kinetics of chlorinated polyfluoroalkyl ether sulfonic acids (Cl-PFESAs) in metal plating workers (n = 19), high fish consumers (n = 45), and background controls (n = 8). Cl-PFESAs were detected in >98% of the sampled individuals with serum concentrations ranging <0.019-5040 ng/mL. Statistically higher median serum levels were observed in high fish consumers (93.7 ng/mL) and metal plating workers (51.5 ng/mL) compared to the background control group (4.78 ng/mL) (Kruskal-Wallis rank sum test, p < 0.01). Cl-PFESAs could account for 0.269 to 93.3% of ∑PFASs in human serum indicating that this compound class may explain a substantial fraction of previously unidentified organic fluorine in the Chinese population. Estimated half-lives for renal clearance (median 280 years; range 7.1-4230 years) and total elimination (median 15.3 years; range 10.1-56.4 years) for the eight carbon Cl-PFESA suggest that this is the most biopersistent PFAS in humans reported to date. The apparent ubiquitous distribution and slow elimination kinetics in humans underscore the need for more research and regulatory actions on Cl-PFESAs and PFAS alternatives with similar chemical structures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Ethers / blood*
  • Fishes / metabolism
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Half-Life
  • Halogenation*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sulfonic Acids / blood*


  • Ethers
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Sulfonic Acids