BACKGROUND: Increased public awareness of PFAS contamination in Australia has resulted in serum biomonitoring efforts in individuals in potentially affected communities. However, population-based reference values for assessing whether individual results exceed the typical range in the Australian general population are not currently available.
OBJECTIVE: Estimate population upper bound reference values based on updated serum PFAS concentrations in pooled samples from southeast Queensland, Australia and population variation observed in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) datasets.
METHODS: We calculated ratios of 95th percentile to arithmetic mean (P95:AM ratios) using data from the NHANES 2013-14 and 2015-16 cycle samples for frequently detected PFASs: PFOA, linear and branched PFOS, perfluorononanoate (PFNA), perfluorodecanoate (PFDA), and perfluorohexanesulfonate (PFHxS). We estimated Australian age-specific means for PFAS using pooled serum samples collected in 2014-15 and 2016-17. We used the P95:AM ratios to estimate 95th percentile concentrations in the Australian population based on the results of the 2016-17 pooled samples.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: P95:AM ratios for each PFAS were similar across NHANES cycle and age group, so overall compound-specific ratios were estimated for PFOA (2.1), PFNA (2.4), PFDA (2.7), PFHxS (2.7), and linear (2.4) and summed PFOS (2.3). Australian mean PFAS concentrations continued previously reported declining trends. The estimated P95 values can be used as preliminary substitutes for more rigorous population reference values to identify samples with clearly elevated serum PFAS concentrations in Australian biomonitoring efforts. Given uncertainties and variability inherent in this evaluation, the estimated P95 values should be interpreted with caution. Mean and estimated P95 serum PFAS concentrations in Australia should continue to be monitored to document declining trends in population serum concentrations.