Barton, K. E., Starling, A. P., Higgins, C. P., McDonough, C. A., Calafat, A. M., & Adgate, J. L. (2019). Sociodemographic and behavioral determinants of serum concentrations of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances in a community highly exposed to aqueous film-forming foam contaminants in drinking water. International journal of hygiene and environmental health.

The key findings of the paper are as follows: 

  • We evaluated associations with the following five PFAS compounds which were detected in more than half of study participants: PFHxS, PFOS, PFOA, PFNA and PFHpS.

  • In general, the data analysis supported the assumption that the largest source of PFAS exposure in the Fountain/Security/Widefield area was drinking water contaminated with AFFF.

The key water-related factors in predicting serum PFAS concentrations were the following:

  • Security water district residents had significantly greater PFHxS, PFOS, PFOA and PFHpS concentrations than Fountain water district residents and significantly greater PFHxS concentrations than Widefield water district residents. Widefield water district residents had significantly greater PFHxS and PFOS concentrations than Fountain residents. The fact that Security residents have greater PFAS concentrations than Widefield residents who have greater PFAS concentrations than Fountain residents makes sense as the contamination moves from north to south away from Peterson Air Force Base.

  • Participants who reported drinking mostly or only tap water had significantly higher PFHxS, PFOS, PFOA and PFHpS concentrations compared to participants who reported drinking mostly or only bottled water.

  • There was no meaningful difference in serum concentrations between people living on private wells versus participants served by the public water systems.

While water consumption was the biggest predictor of PFAS concentrations, other factors that predicted serum PFAS concentrations were:

  • Males generally had higher concentrations of PFAS than females, and in our study most notably for PFOS and PFHpS . This is likely because females eliminate PFAS from their bodies more quickly than males through menstruation, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

  • Older participants tended to have higher PFAS levels than younger participants.

  • Participants who had former firefighter or military employment had higher serum PFOS concentrations than those who didn't. This is likely explained by the use of PFOS-containing products in these occupations.

  • Former smokers tended to have higher PFAS levels than never smokers. Non-Hispanic white participants tended to have higher PFAS levels than Hispanic participants. Neither of these findings can be fully explained with the current research.

In the end, the paper does verify that the primary exposure source of PFAS in people's blood was the AFFF contaminated water.