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Per- and polyfluorinated substances in the Nordic Countries

Use, occurence and toxicology

image of Per- and polyfluorinated substances in the Nordic Countries

This Tema Nord report presents a study based on open information and custom market research to review the most common perfluorinated substances (PFC) with less focus on PFOS and PFOA. The study includes three major parts:1) Identification of relevant per-and polyfluorinated substances and their use in various industrial sectors in the Nordic market by interviews with major players and database information2) Emissions to and occurence in the Nordic environment of the substances described in 1)3) A summary of knowledge of the toxic effects on humans and the environment of substances prioritized in 2)There is a lack of physical chemical data, analystical reference substances, human and environmental occurrence and toxicology data, as well as market information regarding PFCs other than PFOA and PFOS and the current legislation cannot enforce disclosure of specific PFC substance information.

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Environmental effects of per- and polyfluorinated substances

The general observed trend of PFC toxicity is the linear relationship found between increasing chain-length and decreasing EC50 (Hoke et al., 2012; Latała et al., 2009; Mitchell et al., 2011; Mulkiewicz et al., 2007; Nobels et al., 2010). This in combination with the longer half-lives and elimination rate of the longer chain PFCs should be recognised as a great health and environmental concern (Mulkiewicz et al., 2007). It has been shown that PFCs may affect the thyroid system (Weiss et al., 2009), influence the calcium homeostasis, protein kinase C, synaptic plasticity, cellular differentiation, induce neurobehavioral effects and induce peroxisome proliferation (Ishibashi et al., 2008; Mariussen, 2012). In vitro assessment of environmental fate and ecotoxicologial effects of individual PFCs in some cases demonstrate that their current environmental levels do not pose a threat to ecosystems (O’Brien et al., 2009). On the other hand, in the environment, exposure is rarely limited to one PFC, but to a mixture of various PFCs and other environmental pollutants. Toxic effects may occur as a result of interactions between hazardous chemicals and co-exposure may cause additive or synergistic effects (Eriksen et al., 2010). Latała et al. (2009) therefore suggest that future studies of PFCs ecotoxicity should mainly focus on the effects of mixtures of PFCs and their derivatives. Another factor that should be considered when PFC levels in wildlife are evaluated is the substantial differences in PFC concentrations found among life history stages. In a study on porpoises, the highest concentrations of PFCs were found in neonates, suckling juveniles and lactating females which is of concern as PFCs are known to cause toxic effects on the development of the central nervous system and reproductive organs (Galatius et al., 2011).

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