chemical information
Chemical Class:

Perfluorochemical (PFC)

Chemical SubClass

Perfluorinated carboxylic acid

Manufacturing/Use Status

use/production has been voluntarily discontinued in the U.S.

Found in these people:

Jean Salone, Dr. Beverly Wright, Adult B, Adult #108, Anonymous Adult 3, Anonymous Adult 5, Anonymous Adult 7, Anonymous Adult 11, Anonymous Adult 16, Anonymous Adult 18, Anonymous Adult 20, Anonymous Adult 21

Found in these locations:

Corpus Christi, TX; New Orleans, LA; Newton, MA; Fredericksburg, VA; Lamont, FL; Palo Alto, CA; San Francisco, CA; Alamo, CA; Fallbrook, CA; New York, NY

Exposure routes:

No longer manufactured. Residual environmental contamination results in continued exposures.


Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (or PFOSA) is an intermediate breakdown product of some of the active ingredients used for decades in the original formulation of 3M's popular Scotchgard stain and water repellent. In the human body PFOSA is metabolized into PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonate) (Olsen 2005). PFOS does not break down in the environment, accumulates to a high degree in humans and wildlife, and is known to damage the liver and to produce severe birth defects in lab animals. Current theory holds that PFOS interrupts the body's ability to produce cholesterol, a necessary building block of nearly every system in the body (EPA 2000).

In May of 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forced 3M to phase out use of PFOS because of concerns about current levels of PFOS in human blood in relation to levels shown to harm lab animals. In a memo explaining its decision, the agency noted that PFOS combined "persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree," showed "widespread human exposure," and a "preliminary risk assessment indicated potentially unacceptable margins of exposure for workers and possibly the general population" (EPA 2000).

In 2000, 3M decided to phase out all of its PFOS-based chemistry, including PFOSA. But the phase out does not mean that the chemical has ceased to be a problem. PFOSA itself has been found in the blood of children, the elderly and in samples of commercial and blood bank blood (3M 2000a,b; 3M 2002). And PFOS has been found even more widely in humans and wildlife, at even higher levels (Giesy 2001; 3M 2002; Kannan 2002).

While the toxicity of PFOSA itself has not been extensively studied, one of the most striking toxicity-related findings for its metabolic end product PFOS was from a two-generation rat study looking at reproductive effects. At higher doses in the study, all of the progeny in the first generation died. At the lowest dose tested (0.4 mg/kg/day), may of the progeny from the second generation died. As the EPA duly noted in its 2000 memo, it is very unusual to see such second generation effects (EPA 2000).

PFOSA (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid)

In Scotchgard prior to 2000 - part of the 'PFOS chemistry' phased out of use by 3M in 2000 over health concerns; metabolized into PFOS by the body.

PFOSA (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) has been found in 12 of the 67 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. It has also been found in 2,091 of the 2,368 people tested in CDC biomonitoring studies.

Results for PFOSA (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid)

PFOSA (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) was measured in different units for some of the studies. Overall it was found in 12 of 67 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. The bars below are grouped by units:

in blood serum (wet weight)

Showing results from EWG/Commonweal Study #7, consumer product chemicals in adults and teens, EWG Study #6, consumer product chemicals in mothers and daughters, Adult Minority Leader Report, Pets Project, Dateline NBC Families, Dateline NBC Families, EWG Study #8, chemicals in mother and 2 children, Other Body Burden Studies

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: ng/mL (wet weight) in blood serum
  • found in 12 of 57 people in the group

CDC biomonitoring results

  • geometric mean: 12 ng/mL (wet weight) in blood serum
  • found in 2091 of 2368 people in the group
ng/mL (wet weight) in blood serum 435

PFOSA (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) results

in whole blood (wet weight)

Showing results from Pollution in Minority Newborns

EWG/Commonweal results

  • found in 0 of 10 people in the group

found in 0 of 10 people