Biomonitoring of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in minority angler communities in central New York State.
Abstract Onondaga Lake in central New York State was listed as a Superfund site in 1994 due to industrial disposal of pollutants. A biomonitoring program was conducted to assess exposure to over 70 legacy contaminants and contaminants of emerging concern in populations disproportionately at risk for exposure residing near Onondaga Lake and to educate these communities on how to reduce exposures. The populations of focus were refugees from Burma and Bhutan and low-income, primarily African American, anglers (urban anglers). These communities consume locally caught fish for economic as well as cultural reasons and therefore may be at higher risk of exposure. This study focuses on assessment of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and associations with local fish consumption. Using respondent driven sampling, 311 refugees and 89 urban anglers were enrolled in the study. Following informed consent, study participants provided blood and urine specimens and completed a questionnaire. Percentiles of locally caught fish meals in the past 12 months by race/ethnicity groups showed that the Burmese participants of Karen ethnicity were the highest consumers, with a median of 135 meals compared to 103 meals for the other Burmese participants, 70 meals for the urban anglers, and 44 meals for the Bhutanese participants. Compared to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2015–16 sample of the general U.S. population, the Karen participants had markedly elevated perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) levels with median serum concentrations 9.5 times greater (41.6 ng/mL vs. 4.4 ng/mL) and 26.9 times greater (2.69 ng/mL vs. 0.10 ng/mL), respectively; the other Burmese participants had moderately elevated levels of PFOS and PFDA with median serum concentrations 3.0 times greater (13.3 ng/mL vs. 4.4 ng/mL) and 7.3 greater times greater (0.73 ng/mL vs. 0.10 ng/mL), respectively; and, PFAS levels were not elevated in the Bhutanese or urban angler cohorts. Male gender was consistently the strongest predictor of PFAS exposure among all study cohorts. A positive association between local fish consumption was indicated only for PFOS among urban anglers. An association between local fish consumption and PFAS was not statistically significant among the refugee cohorts, perhaps due to the lack of ‘lower-end’ exposure or exposure variability. Community events were held by the program staff to present the biomonitoring results and distribute community outreach materials with visual aids specific for the study populations to promote safe fish eating.