Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 86, Issue 9, pp 1349–1367 | Cite as

Neurotoxic effects of perfluoroalkylated compounds: mechanisms of action and environmental relevance

  • Espen Mariussen
Review Article


Perfluoroalkylated compounds (PFCs) are used in fire-fighting foams, treatment of clothes, carpets and leather products, and as lubricants, pesticides, in paints and medicine. Recent developments in chemical analysis have revealed that fluorinated compounds have become ubiquitously spread and are regarded as a potential threats to the environment. Due to the carbon–fluorine bond, which has a very high bond strength, these chemicals are extremely persistent towards degradation and some PFCs have a potential for bioaccumulation in organisms. Of particular concern has been the developmental toxicity of PFOS and PFOA, which has been manifested in rodent studies as high mortality of prenatally exposed newborn rats and mice within 24 h after delivery. The nervous system appears to be one of the most sensitive targets of environmental contaminants. The serious developmental effects of PFCs have lead to the upcoming of studies that have investigated neurotoxic effects of these substances. In this review the major findings of the neurotoxicity of the main PFCs and their suggested mechanisms of action are presented. The neurotoxic effects are discussed in light of other toxic effects of PFCs to indicate the significance of PFCs as neurotoxicants. The main findings are that PFCs may induce neurobehavioral effects, particularly in developmentally exposed animals. The effects are, however, subtle and inconclusive and are often induced at concentrations where other toxic effects also are expected. Mechanistic studies have shown that PFCs may affect the thyroid system, influence the calcium homeostasis, protein kinase C, synaptic plasticity and cellular differentiation. Compared to other environmental toxicants the human blood levels of PFCs are high and of particular concern is that susceptible groups may be exposed to a cocktail of substances that in combination reach harmful concentrations.


Perfluoroalkylated compounds (PFCs) Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) Organohalogenated compounds Neurobehavioral Neurochemical Neuroendocrine 


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© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Protection DivisionNorwegian Defence Research EstablishmentKjellerNorway

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