Environmental toxicology and chemistry

Environmental toxicity of PFCs: an enhanced integrated biomarker assessment and structure-activity analysis.

PMID 23765507


Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are a group of compounds with varying carbon chains and functional groups. Currently, available toxicity studies of PFCs are limited mainly to dominant species. While many other PFCs are detected in the environment and biota, it is important to extend toxicity studies to different types of PFCs to better assess their environmental and ecological impacts. In the present study, the environmental toxicity of perfluorooctanesulfonate, perfluoroocanoic acid, perfluorononanoic acid, and perfluorodecanoic acid were evaluated in green mussel, Perna viridis, using a new and improved integrated biomarker approach, the enhanced integrated biomarker response (EIBR) system, with biomarkers from multiple biological levels. Structure-activity relationships were also examined based on the biomarker results. The results show that the 4 PFCs have distinct toxicity patterns and the integrative toxicity, in terms of the EIBR value, is governed by the fluorinated chain length. In addition to commonly recognized chain length and functional group effects, several structural factors are also involved in the toxic actions of PFCs, including hydrophobicity and molecular size, and so on. By integrating biomarkers from multiple biological levels with weight-of-evidence, the proposed EIBR provides a new perspective and an ecologically relevant assessment of the environmental toxicity of the pollutants. The results of EIBR and structure-activity analysis are also useful to predict toxic behaviors of other PFCs in the group and facilitate the decision-making process.