Immunotoxicity of an Electrochemically Fluorinated Aqueous Film-Forming Foam

Toxicol Sci. 2020 Nov 1;178(1):104-114. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfaa138.


Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) are complex per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS)-containing mixtures used extensively as fire suppressants. AFFF-impacted groundwater and surface water have contaminated drinking water with PFASs in many communities, raising concerns about health effects from drinking water exposures. As individual PFASs have been identified as immune hazards, the immunotoxicity of complex PFAS mixtures is also a concern. Adult female and male C57BL/6 mice were given a commercial AFFF formulation for 10 days via gavage; administered dose was based on combined content of perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) measured in the formulation (0, 1.88, 3.75, 7.5, or 10 mg PFOS+PFOA/kg body weight). A PFOA positive control of 7.5 mg/kg body weight was also given. Compared with the 0 mg/kg group, the following changes were noted: Body weights of males exposed to 7.5 and 10 mg PFOS+PFOA/kg were reduced by 15%, on average; female body weights did not differ. Average relative liver weights were increased 50%-200% in males and 37.5%-193% in females and liver peroxisome proliferation was increased 2- to 12-fold in all doses of both sexes. Antigen-specific antibody production was suppressed, on average, by 13% in males and by 12.4% in females across all doses. Spleen cellularity and lymphocyte subpopulations did not differ by dose for either sex. Our data indicate that though this complex PFAS mixture contained fairly low PFOA content, it induced changes in C57BL/6 mice similar to changes induced by PFOA alone, likely due to the presence of PFOS and many other PFASs.

Keywords: AFFF; PFAS; humoral immunity; immunotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Female
  • Flame Retardants / toxicity*
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Aerosols
  • Flame Retardants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical