Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals used historically in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs). Two manufacturing techniques for PFAS produced varying individual components. Specifically, the 3M Company produced PFAS using electrochemical fluorination (ECF) whereas Ansul produced AFFF using fluorotelomerization.

In areas impacted by AFFF usage, wildlife may be exposed to PFAS. The objective of this project was to assess potential health effects in PFAS-exposed birds. Then, data were used to develop toxicity reference values (TRVs), which are used to evaluate environmental risks.

Technical Approach

This study assessed the acute toxicity of two PFAS, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), individually and in combination in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). It also assessed the acute toxicity of two commercially available AFFF products in quail. Acute studies involved feeding 10-day old quail PFAS-containing feed dosed with nine dietary treatments of PFOS, PFOA, PFOS + PFOA, 3M AFFF, and Ansul AFFF.

Then, this project assessed the chronic toxicity of PFOS and one AFFF product, and developed a TRV for Japanese quail. In the chronic studies, juvenile quail were fed six dietary treatments of either PFOS or 3M AFFF-containing feed. Notably, PFOS was an active ingredient in the 3M AFFF product. During the exposure period, quail were mated and reproductive parameters were assessed.


In the acute exposures, doses of PFOS, PFOA, PFOS + PFOA, and 3M AFFF resulting in 50% mortality ranged from 38 to 145 mg/kg-d. Exposure to Ansul AFFF did not induce mortality. 

In the chronic exposures, neither PFOS nor 3M AFFF significantly impacted egg production, and hatchability and chick body weight were variably impacted. Chick survivability was significantly decreased beginning at 8.7 mg/kg-feed PFOS and 11 mg/kg-feed 3M AFFF, which was considered the critical effect.


The no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) for PFOS was 4.1 mg/kg-feed (0.55 mg/kg-d). The NOAEL for 3M AFFF was 5.0 mg/kg-feed (0.66 mg/kg-d). Resultant TRVs were 0.25 mg/kg-feed or 0.034 mg/kg-d. These data 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. (Project Completion - 2021)


Bursian, S.J., J.E. Link, M. McCarty, K. Harr, J, Roberts, and M.F. Simcik. 2021. Dietary Exposure of Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica) to Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and a Legacy Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) Containing PFOS: Effects on Reprodution and Chick Survivability and Growth. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 40(9):2521-2537. doi.org/10.1002/etc.5138.

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.org/10.1002/etc.4684.