Global occurrence and probabilistic environmental health hazard assessment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in groundwater and surface waters

Jaylen L. Sims, Kevin M. Stroski, Sujin Kim, Grace Killeen, Ricardo Ehalt, Matt F. Simcik, Bryan W. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) have been used in consumer and military products since the 1950s but are increasingly scrutinized worldwide because of inherent chemical properties, environmental contamination, and risks to public health and the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) identified 24 PFASs of interest for further study and possible regulation. We examined 371 peer-reviewed studies published since 2001 to understand the occurrence and distribution of 24 priority PFASs in global surface waters and groundwater. We identified 77,541 and 16,246 data points for surface waters and groundwater, respectively, with total PFAS concentrations ranging from low pg/L to low mg/L levels. Most data were from Asia, Europe, and North America with some reports from Oceania. PFAS information from other geographic regions is lacking. PFASs levels are consistently higher in rivers and streams followed by lakes and reservoirs and then coastal and marine systems. When sufficient data were available, probabilistic environmental hazard assessments (PEHAs) were performed from environmental exposure distributions (EEDs) to identify potential exceedances of available guideline values for each compound by matrix, region, and aquatic system. Specifically, exceedances of USEPA drinking water lifetime health advisory levels were up to 74% for PFOS in groundwater from Oceania and 69% for PFOA in North American groundwater. Our findings support selection of environmentally relevant experimental treatment levels for future toxicology, ecotoxicology and bioaccumulation studies, and potable source water exposure investigations, while highlighting PFASs and major geographic locations requiring additional study and inclusion in global monitoring and surveillance campaigns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number151535
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 10 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was supported by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) under contract W912HQ19C0050 for Project ER19-1350 to MS and BWB. This work has not been subject to SERDP review, and no official endorsement should be inferred. We thank Dr. Feng (Frank) Xiao for assistance with groundwater data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Drinking water quality
  • Environmental public health
  • Hazard and risk assessment
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


Dive into the research topics of 'Global occurrence and probabilistic environmental health hazard assessment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in groundwater and surface waters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this