Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Assessing the ecological risks of per‐ and polyfluoroalkyl substances: Current state‐of‐the science and a proposed path forward

September 8, 2020

Per‐ and poly‐fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) encompass a large, heterogenous group of chemicals of potential concern to human health and the environment. Based on information for a few relatively well‐understood PFAS such as perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoate, there is ample basis to suspect that at least a subset can be considered persistent, bioaccumulative, and/or toxic. However, data suitable for determining risks in either prospective or retrospective assessments are lacking for the majority of PFAS. In August 2019, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry sponsored a workshop that focused on the state‐of‐the‐science supporting risk assessment of PFAS. The present review summarizes discussions concerning the ecotoxicology and ecological risks of PFAS. First, we summarize currently available information relevant to problem formulation/prioritization, exposure, and hazard/effects of PFAS in the context of regulatory and ecological risk assessment activities from around the world. We then describe critical gaps and uncertainties relative to ecological risk assessments for PFAS and propose approaches to address these needs. Recommendations include the development of more comprehensive monitoring programs to support exposure assessment, an emphasis on research to support the formulation of predictive models for bioaccumulation, and the development of in silico, in vitro, and in vivo methods to efficiently assess biological effects for potentially sensitive species/endpoints. Addressing needs associated with assessing the ecological risk of PFAS will require cross‐disciplinary approaches that employ both conventional and new methods in an integrated, resource‐effective manner. 

Publication Year 2021
Title Assessing the ecological risks of per‐ and polyfluoroalkyl substances: Current state‐of‐the science and a proposed path forward
DOI 10.1002/etc.4869
Authors Gerald T. Ankley, Philippa Cureton, Robert A. Hoke, Magali Houde, Anupama Kumar, Jessy Kurias, Roman P. Lanno, Chris McCarthy, John L. Newsted, Christopher J. Salice, Bradley E. Sample, Maria S. Sepúlveda, Jeffery Steevens, Sara Valsecchi
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Index ID 70219208
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center