Benchmark dose calculations for PFAS exposure based on two data sets on immunotoxic effects

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Exposure to perfluorinated alkylate substances (PFAS) is associated with harmful effects on human health, including developmental immunotoxicity. This outcome was chosen as the critical effect by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which calculated a new joint reference dose for four PFAS using a Benchmark Dose (BMD) analysis of a study of 1-year old children. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed much lower exposure limits.

We explored the BMD methodology for summary and individual data and compared the results with and without grouping for two data sets available. We compared the performance of different dose-response models including a hockey-stick model and a piecewise linear model. We considered different ways of testing the assumption of equal weight-based toxicity of the four PFAS and evaluated more flexible models with exposure indices allowing for differences in toxicity.

Results relying on full and decile-based data were in good accordance. However, BMD results for the larger study were lower than observed by EFSA for the smaller study. EFSA derived a lower confidence limit for the BMD of 17.5 ng/mL for the sum of serum-PFAS concentration, while similar calculations in the larger cohort yielded values of about 1.5 ng/mL. As the assumption of equal weight-based toxicity of the four PFAS seems questionable, we confirmed dose-dependencies that allowed potency differences between PFAS. We also found that models linear in the parameters for the BMD analysis showed superior coverage probabilities. In particular, we found the piecewise linear model to be useful for Benchmark analysis.

Both data sets considered could be analyzed on a decile basis without important bias or loss of power. The larger study showed substantially lower BMD results, both for individual PFAS and for joint exposures. Overall, EFSA’s proposed tolerable exposure limit appears too high, while the EPA proposal is in better accordance with the results.
TidsskriftEnvironmental Health
Udgave nummer1
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 2023

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