PFAS in drinking water and serum of the people of a southeast Alaska community: A pilot study

Mar 29, 2022


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have become a target of rigorous scientific research due to their ubiquitous nature and adverse health effects. However, there are still gaps in knowledge about their environmental fate and health implications. More attention is needed for remote locations with source exposures. This study focuses on assessing PFAS exposure in Gustavus, a small Alaska community, located near a significant PFAS source from airport operations and fire training sites. Residential water (n = 25) and serum (n = 40) samples were collected from Gustavus residents and analyzed for 39 PFAS compounds. In addition, two water samples were collected from the previously identified PFAS source near the community. Fourteen distinct PFAS were detected in Gustavus water samples, including 6 perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs), 7 perfluorosulfonic acids (PFSAs), and 1 fluorotelomer sulfonate (FTS). ΣPFAS concentrations in residential drinking water ranged from not detected to 120 ng/L. High ΣPFAS levels were detected in two source samples collected from the Gustavus Department of Transportation (14,600 ng/L) and the Gustavus Airport (228 ng/L), confirming these two locations as a nearby major source of PFAS contamination. Seventeen PFAS were detected in serum and ΣPFAS concentrations ranged from 0.0170 to 13.1 ng/mL (median 0.0823 ng/mL). Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS) were the most abundant PFAS in both water and serum samples and comprised up to 70% of ΣPFAS concentrations in these samples. Spearman’s correlation analysis revealed PFAS concentrations in water and sera were significantly and positively correlated (r = 0.495; p = 0.0192). Our results confirm a presence of a significant PFAS source near Gustavus, Alaska and suggest that contaminated drinking water from private wells contributes to the overall PFAS body burden in Gustavus residents.


  • Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs)
  • Arctic health
  • Drinking water
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)

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