Developing a Faster Method to Measure PFAS in Human Blood

Most PFAS have properties of both hydrophobicity and hydrophily, and thus they have been widely used in industrial and commercial applications, such as stain- and water-repellent products. It has been found that PFAS are highly persistent in the environment, and they can also bioaccumulate and biomagnify in organisms. According to previous studies, PFAS have been found in marine food web and land animals, including the human body. PFAS has been identified in human blood, serum, urine, breast milk, placentae, and fetal organs, which has raised many concerns, because PFAS can cause various human health hazards such as developmental disorders and delays, liver damage, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and immunosuppression.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2017, all human blood in North America is estimated to have 5 ppb of PFAS.

There is a significant barrier to study human health effects related to PFAS exposure, due to the difficulties with measuring PFAS concentrations in blood in the current methodologies. There are only four commercial labs in North America offering blood testing services, each sample costs about $800 to analyze, results are not available in less than 5 to 6 weeks after the test, and only 10 or fewer individual PFAS types are typically screened for. Thus, the detection of PFAS in human blood is not easily accessible and is rarely done, so the true impacts of these chemicals on human health is largely unknown.

Project Goal

The goal of this project is to design and develop a cheap, fast, and more efficient method of detecting total PFAS in human blood by using activated carbon felts–for PFAS capture–and particle-induced gamma-ray emission (PIGE)–for rapidly screening and measurement.