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PFAS accumulation in indigenous and translocated aquatic organisms from Belgium, with translation to human and ecological health risk
Teunen, L.; Bervoets, L.; Belpaire, C.G.J.; De Jonge, M.; Groffen, T. (2021). PFAS accumulation in indigenous and translocated aquatic organisms from Belgium, with translation to human and ecological health risk. Environ. Sci. Eur. 33(1): 39. https://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12302-021-00477-z
In: Environmental Sciences Europe. Springer: New York. ISSN 2190-4707; e-ISSN 2190-4715, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Bivalvia [WoRMS]; Perca fluviatilis Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    Active biomonitoring, Passive biomonitoring, Perfluoroalkyl substances, European perch, European eel, Bivalves

Authors  Top 
  • Teunen, L., more
  • Bervoets, L., more
  • Belpaire, C.G.J., more



    Despite specific restrictions on their production and use, per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) are still omnipresent in the environment, including aquatic ecosystems. Most biomonitoring studies have investigated the PFAS concentrations in indigenous organisms, whereas active biomonitoring has only been used sporadically. In the present study, accumulated PFAS concentrations were measured in indigenous fish, European perch (Perca fluviatilis) and European eel (Anguilla anguilla), and in translocated freshwater mussels (Dreissena bugensis and Corbicula fluminea) at 44 sampling locations within the main water basins of Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. Finally, both human health risk and ecological risk were assessed based on accumulated concentrations in fish muscle.


    Among locations, ΣPFAS concentrations ranged from 8.56–157 ng/g ww (median: 22.4 ng/g ww) in mussels, 5.22–67.8 ng/g ww (median: 20.8 ng/g ww) in perch, and 5.73–68.8 ng/g ww (median: 22.1 ng/g ww) in eel. Concentrations of PFOA and PFTeDA were higher in mussels compared to fish, whereas for PFDA and PFUnDA the opposite was true. A comparison of concentrations on a wet weight basis between both fish species showed significantly higher PFDoDA, PFTrDA, PFTeDA and PFOA concentrations in eel compared to perch and significantly higher concentrations of PFDA and PFOS in perch. In mussels, PFAS profiles were dominated by PFOA and showed a higher relative contribution of short-chained PFAS, while PFAS profiles in fish were dominated by PFOS. Furthermore, all mussel species clearly occupied a lower trophic level than both fish species, based on a stable isotope analysis.


    Biomagnification of PFDA, PFUnDA and PFOS and biodilution of PFOA and PFTeDA were observed. Translocated mussels have been proven suitable to determine which PFAS are present in indigenous fish, since similar PFAS profiles were measured in all biota. Finally, mean PFAS concentrations in fish did pose a human health risk for eel, although tolerable daily intake values for perch were close to the reported daily consumption rates in Belgium and exceeded them in highly contaminated locations. Based on the ecological risk of PFOS, the standard was exceeded at about half of the sampling locations (44% for perch and 58% for eel).

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