Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitous chemicals of concern in the environment. They were used extensively in the formulation of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) that have been used since approximately 1970 for fire-training and emergency response. Two manufacturing techniques for PFAS produced varying individual components. The 3M company produced PFAS, and subsequently AFFF, using electrochemical fluorination while Ansul produced AFFF using DuPont’s fluorotelomer based PFAS. Due to their use and storage, release of these chemicals to the environment is significant. In the environment, exposure to PFAS from wildlife is probable in areas impacted with AFFF. The objective of this project was to examine the effects of PFAS in avian species to provide data meeting the criteria for development of toxicity reference values (TRVs) used to evaluate environmental risks posed by AFFF use.

Technical Approach

This study assessed the acute toxicity of two PFAS, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), individually and in combination as well as two AFFF formulations in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Additionally, this project determined the chronic toxicity of PFOS and one AFFF formulation, and developed a TRV for Japanese quail. Acute studies involved feeding 10-day old quail feed dosed with nine dietary treatments of PFOS, PFOA, PFOS + PFOA, 3M AFFF and Ansul AFFF. For the chronic exposure juvenile quail were fed six dietary treatments of either PFOS or 3M AFFF contaminated feed. Those quail were paired and reproductive effects observed.


From the acute exposure, average daily doses resulting in 50% mortality at day five were 38 (34–43), 68 (63–74), 55 (51–59), and 130 (103–164) mg PFOS, PFOA, PFOS + PFOA, and PFOS in 3M AFFF kg body weight–1 d–1. Ansul AFFF did not result in any mortalities. Dietary concentrations resulting in 50% mortality at day five were 351(275–450), 496 (427–575), 398 (339–468), and 467 (390–559) mg PFOS, PFOA, PFOS + PFOA, and PFOS in 3M AFFF kg feed–1. From the chronic exposure PFOS or AFFF PFOS did not have a significant effect on egg production and had a variable effect on hatchability and chick body weight. Chick survivability, considered the critical effect, was significantly decreased beginning at 8.7 mg PFOS and 11 mg AFFF PFOS kg-1 feed.


The no observed adverse effect level for PFOS was 4.1 mg kg feed-1 (0.55 mg kg body weight-1 d-1) and 5.0 mg AFFF PFOS kg feed-1 (0.66 mg kg body weight-1 d-1) resulting in average TRVs of 0.25 mg kg feed-1 and 0.034 mg kg bw-1 d-1. These data that will assist in the development of site-specific risk assessments and decisions related to mitigation of exposure and/or future environmental cleanup of areas affected by use and release of AFFF. 


Bursian, S.J., J.E. Link, M. McCarty, and M.F. Simcik. 2020. The Subacute Toxicity of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate and/or Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Legacy Aqueous Film-Forming Foams to Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica) Chicks. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 40(3): 695-710. doi:10.1002/etc.4684