BACKGROUND: Experimental evidence indicates that exposure to certain pollutants is associated with liver damage. Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are persistent synthetic chemicals widely used in industry and consumer products and bioaccumulate in food webs and human tissues, such as the liver. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis evaluating PFAS exposure and evidence of liver injury from rodent and epidemiological studies. METHODS: PubMed and Embase were searched for all studies from earliest available indexing year through 1 December 2021 using keywords corresponding to PFAS exposure and liver injury. For data synthesis, results were limited to studies in humans and rodents assessing the following indicators of liver injury: serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or steatosis. For human studies, at least three observational studies per PFAS were used to conduct a weighted z-score meta-analysis to determine the direction and significance of associations. For rodent studies, data were synthesized to qualitatively summarize the direction and significance of effect. RESULTS: Our search yielded 85 rodent studies and 24 epidemiological studies, primarily of people from the United States. Studies focused primarily on legacy PFAS: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid. Meta-analyses of human studies revealed that higher ALT levels were associated with exposure to PFOA (z-score = 6.20, p < 0:001), PFOS (z-score = 3.55, p < 0:001), and PFNA (z-score = 2.27, p = 0:023). PFOA exposure was also associated with higher aspartate aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transferase levels in humans. In rodents, PFAS exposures consistently resulted in higher ALT levels and steatosis. CONCLUSION: There is consistent evidence for PFAS hepatotoxicity from rodent studies, supported by associations of PFAS and markers of liver function in observational human studies. This review identifies a need for additional research evaluating next-generation PFAS, mixtures, and early life exposures. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP10092.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis