PFASs pollution in Galveston Bay surface waters and biota (shellfish and fish) following AFFFs use during the ITC fire at Deer Park (March 17th-20th 2019), Houston, TX

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Jan 20;805:150361. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150361. Epub 2021 Sep 16.


The use of aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs) as fire retardants is an critical point-source for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) pollution into the aquatic environment. This study investigated PFASs pollution in the surface waters and biota (shellfish and fish) of Galveston Bay, following AFFFs use to extinguish a petrochemical fire (March 17th to 20th, 2019) of oil storage tanks at the International Terminals Company (ITC) in Deer Park (Houston, TX). The levels of up to twelve EPA priority PFASs were measured in surface waters and biota from March-November 2019. PFASs levels in surface waters showed mean total levels in March and April 2019 to be from 4× to ~300× higher than those measured in the following months. PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) was the most abundant homolog measured at ≥66% of total PFASs. Maximal PFOS levels exceeded the State of Texas' water regulatory limit of 0.6 μg L-1 in 3% of the samples analyzed in March and April 2019. PFOS was also the most prominent homolog (≥66% of total PFASs) measured in eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica), red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus), and spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus). A statistically significant elevation of PFOS body-burdens was measured in oysters and spotted seatrout in April and May 2019, respectively. A Hazard Ratio calculation for seafood safety suggests an advisory of 1-2 meals per week for gafftopsail catfish and red drum, and 2 meals per week for spotted seatrout to be protective for human exposure to PFOS. The levels in oysters indicated no immediate concerns for the dietary exposure of humans. Our results highlight a need for continual monitoring to assess the long-term fate and seafood advisories for PFASs.

Keywords: Body-burdens; Fire retardants; Fish; Oysters; PFOS; Seafood safety.

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids* / analysis
  • Animals
  • Bays
  • Biota
  • Deer*
  • Fluorocarbons* / analysis
  • Humans
  • Seafood
  • Shellfish
  • Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water