Lab Matters Winter 2019 - Page 8

FEATURE Julianne Nassif, MS, director of APHL’s environmental health program, said national capacity for PFAS testing falls well short of demand, especially as the potential dangers of PFAS exposure become more publicized and as the chemicals turn up in more and more sites. The newly launched National Biomoni- toring Network (NBN) is preparing to offer training and technical assistance to states seeking to institute clinical PFAS testing programs, but there is no comparable entity to boost capacity for environmental PFAS testing. Serum PFAS analysis by isotope-dilution liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) showing the chromatographic separation of PFAS peaks. Photo: Wadsworth Center Testing for PFAS in aqueous samples involves an extraction of the analytes using solid phase extraction (SPE) techniques and determination using liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS).” Patrick Parsons, PhD Currently, state laboratories in at least ten jurisdictions—CA, IA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, UT, WI—have tested or currently test for select PFAS in human blood, drinking water or both. At least three of these states also test other matrices, such as groundwater, wastewater and surface water. Michigan has tested deer and fish. Wadsworth, a leader in PFAS analytics, can measure up to 11 PFAS targets in human serum and up to 16 PFAS compounds and eight perfluoroalkyl ether carboxylic acids (a newer class of PFAS chemicals) in drinking water. Additionally, Wadsworth scientists have developed more than ten novel methods for PFAS measurement in a variety of matrices, including newborn screening dried blood spots. The laboratory serves as a resource to neighboring states and contributes to a number of federal biomonitoring studies. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control uses two test methods to detect PFAS in serum. One targets 12 long carbon chain perfluorochemicals— the most persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic compounds within the PFAS class (the same test panel historically used for CDC’s population-based PFAS surveillance). The other targets some of the newer, short carbon chain PFAS and precursor compounds. But even with these state resources, 6 LAB MATTERS Winter 2019 “NBN funding comes from CDC, so it’s limited in how it can be used,” said Nassif. “We’d love to have a similar structure to build capability and capacity for PFAS water testing in the state laboratories,” perhaps supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Defense. At present, much of this environmental work has been handed off to commercial laboratories. While “expedient,” Nassif said, “I don’t think [reliance on contractors] is a good long term solution. ... States should have capability to perform that testing. It would be prioritized; it would be high quality testing.” Moreover, a state “primacy” laboratory for environmental PFAS testing could be responsible for quality oversight in the commercial sector and for confirmatory testing in cases where contract labs report differing results. “The public is just up in arms” While laboratory data are critical to inform PFAS investigations and response, the utility of the data is limited by serious scientific gaps. For example, since 1999 CDC has been measuring serum levels of select PFAS chemicals as part of its National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), but there is no national standard for human PFAS exposure to explain what those findings mean. Eden Wells, MD, MPH, FACPM, former chief medical officer for the state of Michigan, said, “There is no blood level that can PublicHealthLabs @APHL