Risk to human health related to the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances in food

PFAS, food, exposure, mixtures, immune system, PBPK, risk assessment
First published in the EFSA Journal
17 settembre 2020
9 luglio 2020
Scientific Opinion


The European Commission asked EFSA for a scientific evaluation on the risks to human health related to the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in food. Based on several similar effects in animals, toxicokinetics and observed concentrations in human blood, the CONTAM Panel decided to perform the assessment for the sum of four PFASs: PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS and PFOS. These made up half of the lower bound (LB) exposure to those PFASs with available occurrence data, the remaining contribution being primarily from PFASs with short half‐lives. Equal potencies were assumed for the four PFASs included in the assessment. The mean LB exposure in adolescents and adult age groups ranged from 3 to 22, the 95th percentile from 9 to 70 ng/kg body weight (bw) per week. Toddlers and ‘other children’ showed a twofold higher exposure. Upper bound exposure was 4‐ to 49‐fold higher than LB levels, but the latter were considered more reliable. ‘Fish meat’, ‘Fruit and fruit products’ and ‘Eggs and egg products’ contributed most to the exposure. Based on available studies in animals and humans, effects on the immune system were considered the most critical for the risk assessment. From a human study, a lowest BMDL10 of 17.5 ng/mL for the sum of the four PFASs in serum was identified for 1‐year‐old children. Using PBPK modelling, this serum level of 17.5 ng/mL in children was estimated to correspond to long‐term maternal exposure of 0.63 ng/kg bw per day. Since accumulation over time is important, a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 4.4 ng/kg bw per week was established. This TWI also protects against other potential adverse effects observed in humans. Based on the estimated LB exposure, but also reported serum levels, the CONTAM Panel concluded that parts of the European population exceed this TWI, which is of concern.

This publication is linked to the following EFSA Supporting Publications article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/sp.efsa.2020.EN-1931/full

Panel members at the time of adoption

Margherita Bignami, Laurent Bodin, James Kevin Chipman, Jesús del Mazo, Bettina Grasl‐Kraupp, Christer Hogstrand, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Jean‐Charles Leblanc, Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Elsa Nielsen, Evangelia Ntzani, Annette Petersen, Salomon Sand, Dieter Schrenk, Tanja Schwerdtle, Christiane Vleminckx and Heather Wallace.
Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain
contam [at] efsa.europa.eu
EFSA Journal 2020;18(9):6223
Question Number
On request from
European Commission