Legacy and emerging per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) in sediment and edible fish from the Eastern Red Sea

Aasim M. Ali, Monica Sanden, Christopher P. Higgins, Sarah E. Hale, Walied M. Alarif, Sultan S. Al-Lihaibi, Erik Magnus Ræder, Håkon Austad Langberg, Roland Kallenborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Poly: and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) are ubiquitously detected all around the world. Herein, for the first time, concentrations of 16 selected legacy and emerging PFASs are reported for sediment and edible fish collected from the Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Mean concentrations varied from 0.57 to 2.6 μg kg−1 dry weight (dw) in sediment, 3.89–7.63 μg kg−1 dw in fish muscle, and 17.9–58.5 μg kg−1 dw in fish liver. Wastewater treatment plant effluents represented the main source of these compounds and contributed to the exposure of PFAS to biota. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was the most abundant compound in sediment and fish tissues analysed, comprising between 42 and 99% of the ∑16PFAS. The short chain perfluorobutanoate (PFBA) was the second most dominant compound in sediment and was detected at a maximum concentration of 0.64 μg kg−1 dw. PFAS levels and patterns differed between tissues of investigated fish species. Across all fish species, ∑16PFAS concentrations in liver were significantly higher than in muscle by a factor ranging from 3 to 7 depending on fish species and size. The PFOS replacements fluorotelomer sulfonate (6:2 FTS) and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) exhibited a bioaccumulation potential in several fish species and 6:2 FTS, was detected at a maximum concentration of 7.1 ± 3.3 μg kg−1 dw in a doublespotted queenfish (Scomberoides lysan) liver. PFBS was detected at a maximum concentration of 2.65 μg kg−1 dw in strong spine silver-biddy (Gerres longirostris) liver. The calculated dietary intake of PFOS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) exceeded the safety threshold established by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2020 in doublespotted queenfish muscle, indicating a potential health risk to humans consuming this fish in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116935
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Mar 25 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-15
Acknowledgements: Funding Parts of the analytical work were supported by internal funding of the NMBU Faculty of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Sciences (KBM). The authors acknowledge financial support from the RCN project 268258/E50 “Reducing the impact of fluorinated compounds on the environment and human health”. This study was partially funded by internal funding from the Institute of Marine Research. Dr. Mohamed Hosny (KAU) and PhD Student Collin Williams (Red Sea Research Center, KAUST) are thanked for helping with the identification of fish species collected.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology


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