Study: Identifying PFC Carcinogen Exposure in Firefighters

May be of interest to OH&S and personal injury lawyers. Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) and their derivatives are known carcinogens that were included in many fire fighting products until the early 2000s.

It has long been speculated that such compounds accumulate in the systems of firefighters and a recent study appears to confirm these concerns; finding many PFCs and unknown derivatives in the blood of firefighters.


Fluorinated surfactant-based aqueous film–forming foams (AFFF) are made up of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), and are used to extinguish fires involving highly flammable liquids. The use of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and other perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in some AFFF formulations has been linked to substantial environmental contamination. Recent studies have identified a large number of novel and infrequently reported fluorinated surfactants in different AFFF formulations. In this study, a strategy based on a case-control approach, using quadrupole time of flight tandem mass spectrometry (QTOF-MS/MS) and advanced statistical methods has been used to extract and identify known and unknown PFAS in human serum, associated with AFFF exposed firefighters. Two target sulfonic acids (PFOS and PFHxS), three non-target acids (perfluoropentanesulfonic acid (PFPeS), perfluoroheptanesulfonic acid (PFHpS) and perfluorononanesulfonic acid (PFNS)), and four unknown sulfonic acids (Cl-PFOS, ketone-PFOS, ether-PFHxS, and Cl-PFHxS) were exclusively or significantly more frequently detected at higher levels, in firefighters compared to controls. The application of this strategy has allowed for identification of previously unreported fluorinated chemicals in a timely and cost efficient way.


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