United States                   Office of Water
Environmental Protection Agency       4305T
                                                                               September 2013
                             Contaminants  of Emerging
                                  Concern  (CECs)  in  Fish:
                                Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)
About PFCs
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a class of synthetic compounds containing thousands of chemicals
formed from carbon chains with fluorine attached to these chains. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and
perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are two of the best known PFCs. The chemical structure of PFCs
gives them unique properties, such as thermal stability and the ability to repel both water and oil,
that make them useful components in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products, including
non-stick cookware, food packaging, waterproof clothing, fabric stain protectors, lubricants, paints, and
fire fighting foams. Large volumes of PFCs have been produced since the 1950s. Their high production
volume led to widespread distribution in the environment, particularly in water where they are most
readily transported. EPA  initiated a program in 2006 to phase out emissions and use of long-chain
Perfluorinated chemicals  (including PFOA) by the end of 2015 because these chemicals are persistent,
bioaccumulative, and toxic.
 Why Is Studying PFCs in Fish Important?
 Since 2000, PFCs have emerged as contaminants of concern because they are broadly distributed and persistent
 in the environment. The vast majority of people living in industrialized nations have detectable concentrations of
 many PFCs in their blood serum.  Elevated concentrations of PFOS and PFOA in human blood have been linked
 to a number of potential health effects, including immunotoxicity, decreased sperm count, low birth weight,
 thyroid disease, and high cholesterol (PFOA only). PFCs  have also been associated with endocrine disruption
 and cancer in animal studies. Recent modeling studies estimate that PFC contamination in food may account for
 more than 90% of human exposure to PFOS and PFOA, with results from other studies suggesting that fish from
 contaminated waters may be the primary source of exposure to PFOS.

 How Is EPA Responding?
 Based on potential health risks to people exposed to PFOS in fish, the EPA identified the need for a more comprehensive
 characterization of PFC contamination in U.S. fish. As a result, EPA planned and conducted a national-scale study
 of urban rivers and a regional-scale study of the Great Lakes to evaluate the extent of PFC
 contamination in freshwater fish. The purpose of the studies is to develop national and
 regional estimates of the median concentrations of PFCs in fish from U.S. rivers and the
 Great Lakes, respectively. The statistical design of the studies also allows for estimation of
 the percentage of river miles or nearshore lake area with fish tissue concentrations above
 a specified human health  threshold. EPA established partnerships to conduct the following
  The National Rivers and Streams Assessment (2008-2014)
  National Coastal Condition Assessment, Great Lakes Human Health Fish Tissue Study

                  National Rivers and Streams Assessment
                CEC and Legacy Fish Tissue Contamination Studies
  First statistically based national assessment of contaminants in fish from U.S. rivers

                NRSA Fish Sampling  Locations (542)
              Urban Rivers (164)
              Non-urban Rivers (378)
Study Design
 164 randomly selected urban river segments
  sampled in the lower 48 states during 2008 and
 Five fish collected per site to form one composite
  sample for fillet analysis because people typically
  consume fillets
 Fillets analyzed for 13 PFCs (e.g., PFOS and PFOA)
 Fillet results for other CECs (musks) from the
  164 urban river sites
 Additional fillet results for PBDEs and legacy
  contaminants (mercury, selenium, PCBs, and
  pesticides) from the full set of 542 river sites
  sampled for fish
 Future RFC

                  National Coastal Condition Assessment
                  Great Lakes Human Health Fish Tissue Study
         First statistically based assessment of chemicals in Great Lakes fish
                             relevant to human health
            NCCA Great Lakes Human Health Fish Tissue Study
                          Sampling Locations (157)
Study Design
 157 randomly selected nearshore sites sampled in
  the 5 Great Lakes (about 30 sites per lake) during
 One fish sample collected per site for fillet analysis
 Fillets analyzed for 13 PFCs
 Fillet results for other CECs (PBDEs), mercury, and
 First broad assessment of fatty acids in Great
  Lakes fish
               of PFC Data
 Future PFC
                            For additional information contact:
                                   Leanne Stahl at stahl.leanne@epa.gov
                         or access http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishstudies/