Perfluoroalkyl substances follow inverted U-shaped distributions across various stages of glomerular function: Implications for future research

Environ Res. 2019 Feb;169:476-482. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.11.033. Epub 2018 Nov 27.


Data (N = 6844) from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for US adults aged ≥ 20 years for the years 2007-2014 were analyzed to evaluate distributional characteristics of selected perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) with declining glomerular function. The population was stratified according to the estimated glomerular filtration rates (eGFR) that accompany the stages of kidney disease, designated as glomerular function-1 (GF-1, eGFR>90 mL/min/1.73 m2); GF-2 (eGFR 60-89 mL/min/1.73 m2), GF-3A (eGFR 45-59 mL/min/1.73 m2), and GF-3B and 4 combined (eGFR 15-44 mL/min/1.73 m2). Unadjusted as well as adjusted geometric means for serum PFOA, PFDA, PFHxS, and PFNA increased as expected through stage GF-3A but decreased below the concentrations associated with GF-1 for those who were in GF-3B/4. For example, unadjusted geometric means for PFOA were 2.59, 3.02, 3.01, and 2.22 ng/mL for GF-1, GF-2, GF-3A, and GF-3B/4 respectively. Adjusted geometric means for PFOA were 2.34, 2.83, 2.83, and 1.81 ng/mL for GF-1, GF-2, GF-3A, and GF-3B/4 respectively. Thus, PFAS were found to follow inverted U-shaped distributions across different stages of glomerular function. For females, decreases in adjusted PFAS serum levels were initiated at GF-3A, while decreases for males began as early as GF-2. Usually, females are known to have lower levels of PFAS but when in GF-3A and GF-3B/4, females were found to have higher levels of PFAS than males. Thus, inverted U-shaped curves for males and females intersected between GF-2 and GF-3A for PFOA and PFHxS and at GF-3A for PFOS and PFNA. Associations between PFAS and biomarkers of kidney function may be modified in both magnitude and even in direction as kidney function deteriorates. These findings have implications for studies that evaluate associations between PFAS and disease states that affect kidney function, as well as outcome biomarkers known to be affected by kidney function.

Keywords: Kidney failure; PFOA; PFOS; Perfluoroalkyl substances.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids*
  • Biomarkers
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons*
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Young Adult


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Biomarkers
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons