PFAS testing: VAMS are the better, accessible, and cost-effective approach

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on August 01st, 2023

VAMS could potentially revolutionize biomonitoring studies, supporting large-scale efforts and epidemiological research for diverse populations. This breakthrough technology has the potential to supplement or replace current DBS collection methods, providing a powerful tool for monitoring PFAS exposure.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of persistent chemicals known for their water- and stain-repellent properties which have become a hot topic in environmental and public health discussions due to their widespread use and persistence in the environment.

Unfortunately, their stability also means that they can accumulate in the environment and in humans, so it is crucial to monitor human exposure to PFAS accurately. Traditionally, serum has been used for PFAS biomonitoring, but it comes with challenges like complexity, cost, and accessibility. However, a breakthrough study published in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science and Technology journal presents a promising alternative - Volumetric Absorptive Micro-Samplers (VAMS).

Understanding PFAS and the need for biomonitoring

PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals that have been used in various products for decades, including non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and firefighting foams. Their unique properties, such as water and stain resistance, have made them ubiquitous in modern society. However, these same characteristics also make them incredibly persistent in the environment and the human body.

The potential for PFAS accumulation in humans has raised concerns, as studies have linked exposure to adverse health outcomes, including effects on the liver, thyroid, and immune system. As a result, there is a growing need for accurate biomonitoring methods to assess PFAS exposure and better understand potential health risks.

Comparing VAMS and traditional serum approach

Historically, the standard approach to measure PFAS in the human body has involved collecting serum samples through venipuncture, a process that requires a trained phlebotomist and dedicated laboratory facilities. While serum provides valuable information, its collection process can be complex, expensive, and logistically challenging. Moreover, these factors can hinder large-scale biomonitoring efforts and limit accessibility to diverse populations.

The study compared PFAS levels in serum samples obtained through traditional phlebotomy with those collected using VAMS. The results demonstrated high correlations between the two methods, indicating that VAMS are reliable self-collection tools for assessing PFAS exposure. Notably, whole blood samples collected with VAMS showed PFAS concentrations approximately two times higher than traditional serum samples, which suggests that the whole blood approach may be more suitable for characterizing exposure to a broader suite of PFAS.

The VAMS approach - a cost-effective and accessible solution

VAMS are innovative sampling devices that utilize capillary action to draw whole blood samples into the device, making them a practical self-collection tool. The proprietary hydrophilic polymer in VAMS allows for precise metering of blood absorption, overcoming the challenges faced by other methods like dried blood spots (DBS) which suffer from inaccuracies due to variable blood volumes. The study demonstrates that VAMS technology provides a reliable means of quantifying PFAS in whole blood samples and offers several advantages over the traditional serum approach.

One of the primary advantages of using VAMS for PFAS testing is the ease of self-collection. Unlike serum-based methods that require trained phlebotomists and dedicated laboratories, VAMS allows individuals to collect their own blood samples with minimal training, reducing the need for specialized personnel and facilities. This accessibility opens the door for larger-scale PFAS exposure assessment efforts, as it eliminates the logistical complexities and associated costs.

Expert opinions and implications

Christopher P. Higgins, a co-author of the study and University Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado School of Mines, praised the research for providing confidence in the reliability of self-collected blood samples. He emphasized that VAMS offers an easier alternative to traditional serum collection, making it feasible for large-scale biomonitoring programs and epidemiological studies.

Furthermore, the research has important implications for community-based biomonitoring efforts, particularly in the context of studying PFAS mixtures and their impact on human health. With the capability to accurately measure elevated PFAS in blood, VAMS can aid in identifying potential health risks and enable more comprehensive epidemiological research.

Our team of highly skilled legal experts is here to support you in joining the PFAS water contamination lawsuit

With over three decades of experience handling complex toxic exposure cases, our seasoned attorneys offer complimentary case evaluations to help local communities assess the extent of PFAS contamination in their drinking water. Additionally, we can assist public water utilities with detectable PFAS levels in becoming a part of the PFAS water contamination lawsuit.

By participating in this lawsuit, eligible parties have the opportunity to secure a portion of the $12.5 billion settlement from 3M, designated to cover costly PFAS testing, remediation, and treatment expenses. If you are uncertain about whether your community qualifies for compensation, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our team is ready to guide you through the process and fight for your rights.