Background: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA or C8) has hepatotoxic effects in animals. Cross-sectional epidemiologic studies suggest PFOA is associated with liver injury biomarkers.
Objectives: We estimated associations between modeled historical PFOA exposures and liver injury biomarkers and medically validated liver disease.
Methods: Participants completed surveys during 2008-2011 reporting demographic, medical, and residential history information. Self-reported liver disease, including hepatitis, fatty liver, enlarged liver and cirrhosis, was validated with healthcare providers. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) and direct bilirubin, markers of liver toxicity, were obtained from blood samples collected in the C8 Health Project (2005-2006). Historically modeled PFOA exposure, estimated using environmental fate and transport models and participant residential histories, was analyzed in relation to liver biomarkers (n = 30,723, including 1,892 workers) and liver disease (n = 32,254, including 3,713 workers).
Results: Modeled cumulative serum PFOA was positively associated with ALT levels (p for trend < 0.0001), indicating possible liver toxicity. An increase from the first to the fifth quintile of cumulative PFOA exposure was associated with a 6% increase in ALT levels (95% CI: 4, 8%) and a 16% increased odds of having above-normal ALT (95% CI: odds ratio: 1.02, 1.33%). There was no indication of association with either elevated direct bilirubin or GGT; however, PFOA was associated with decreased direct bilirubin. We observed no evidence of an effect of cumulative exposure (with or without a 10-year lag) on all liver disease (n = 647 cases), nor on enlarged liver, fatty liver, and cirrhosis only (n = 427 cases).
Conclusion: Results are consistent with previous cross-sectional studies showing association between PFOA and ALT, a marker of hepatocellular damage. We did not observe evidence that PFOA increases the risk of clinically diagnosed liver disease.
Citation: Darrow LA, Groth AC, Winquist A, Shin HM, Bartell SM, Steenland K. 2016. Modeled perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposure and liver function in a Mid-Ohio Valley community. Environ Health Perspect 124:1227-1233; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510391.