Residents of Anniston Alabama were highly exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) due to longstanding manufacturing in the area. The Anniston Community Health Surveys (ACHS I-2005–2007 and II, 2014) have linked these exposures with a variety of deletereous health outcomes. In addition to PCBs, these individuals were likely simultaneously exposed to other persistent organic pollutants including per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are an emerging class of ubiquitous industrial chemicals that are measurable in the blood of most individuals and have themselves been linked increased risk of some non communicable diseases.


To characterize PFAS exposures in ACHS I and ACHS II, we measured eight environmentally significant PFAS in serum by UPLC coupled electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), Perfluorononanoate (PFNA), Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS), Hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), and 4:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonic acid (4.2 FTS) were extracted from matched serum samples of individuals who participated in the original ACHS I (2005–2007; n = 297) and the follow up ACHS II (2014; n = 336). Data were collected in negative multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode with monitoring of quantitation and qualifier ions for all target PFAS analytes, surrogates and internal standards. VARCLUS procedure was used to create hierarchical clusters between PFAS and other legacy persistent organic pollutants which may share similar exposure routes.


Overall, circulating PFAS levels decreased approximately 50% from ACHS I (2005–2007) to ACHS II (2014), but these changes varied by compound. Mean levels of PFOS were >3 times higher in ACHS I subjects than in conpemporaneous NHANES subjects (2005–2006; ACHS I mean: 71.1 ng/ml; NHANES mean: 20.2 ng/mL), and this relationship persisted in ACHS II subjects (2014: ACHS II mean: 34.7 ng/ml; NHANES mean: 5.92 ng/mL). PFNA was also higher in both ACHS I and ACHS II subjects in comparision to NHANES whereas levels of PFOA and PFHxS were lower than in NHANES. Finally, cluster analysis revealed that in ACHS II, most PFAS tracked with polybrominated diphenyl ethers, except PFNA and PFHpA which clustered with industrial PCBs. In ACHS I, PFAS analytes correlated more closely with industrial PCBs and chlorinated pesticides.


Participants in the Anniston Community Health Surveys have higher levels of PFOS and PFNA than the general population with average PFOS levels >3 times contemporaneous NHANES levels. Since PFAS were not known to be manufactured in the area, more work needs to be completed to determine if population demographics, proximity to a military base, or regional manufacturing can explain the elevated levels.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Environment International, v. 158, 106907.

© 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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Funding Information

This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health [P30ES026529; P30ES020957; R00ES028734, P42ES007380, R35ES028373, P30ES302883, P42ES023716], the intramural program of the NCI/NIH, and used resources at the Lexington, KY VA medical center.

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