Associations between serum perfluoroalkyl acid (PFAA) concentrations and health related biomarkers in firefighters

Sandra Nilsson*, Kayla Smurthwaite, Lesa L. Aylward, Margaret Kay, Leisa Maree Toms, Leisa King, Shelby Marrington, Martyn D. Kirk, Jochen F. Mueller, Jennifer Bräunig

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives: Firefighters who used aqueous film forming foam in the past have experienced elevated exposures to perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs). The objective of this study was to examine the associations between clinical chemistry endpoints and serum concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluoroheptane sulfonate (PFHpS) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in firefighters. Multiple linear regression was used to assess relationships between PFAA serum concentrations and biochemical markers for cardiovascular disease, kidney-, liver- and thyroid function, in a cross-sectional survey of 783 firefighters with elevated levels of PFHxS, PFHpS and PFOS in relation to the most recently reported levels in the general Australian population. Linear logistic regression was used to assess the odds ratios for selected self-reported health outcomes. Repeated measures linear mixed models were further used to assess relationships between PFAAs and biomarkers for cardiovascular disease and kidney function longitudinally in a subset of the firefighters (n = 130) where serum measurements were available from two timepoints, five years apart. In the cross-sectional analysis, higher levels of all PFAAs were significantly associated with higher levels of biomarkers for cardiovascular disease (total-cholesterol, and LDL-cholesterol). For example, doubling in PFOS serum concentration were associated with increases in total cholesterol (β:0.111, 95% confidence interval (95%CI): 0.026, 0.195 mmol/L) and LDL-cholesterol (β: 0.104, 95%CI:0.03, 0.178 mmol/L). Doubling in PFOA concentration, despite not being elevated in the study population, were additionally positively associated with kidney function marker urate (e.g., β: 0.010, 95%CI; 0.004, 0.016 mmol/L) and thyroid function marker TSH (e.g., β: 0.087, 95%CI: 0.014, 0.161 mIU/L). PFAAs were not associated with any assessed self-reported health conditions. No significant relationships were observed in the longitudinal analysis. Findings support previous studies, particularly on the association between PFAAs and serum lipids.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number114370
    JournalEnvironmental Research
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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