Can perfluoroalkyl acids biodegrade in the rumen simulation technique (RUSITEC)?
Background The behaviour of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in tissues of ruminants has been shown to differ from that of monogastrics (J Agric Food Chem 61(12):2903–2912 doi:10.1021/jf304680j, 2013; J Agric Food Chem 62(28):6861–6870, 2014). This may be a consequence of the complex microbial ecosystem in the rumen. To evaluate this hypothesis, the recovery of PFAAs was studied using the rumen simulation technique as an indication for biodegradation in rumen. The PFAA-recovery from a microbial fermentation of feed containing PFAAs was compared to the same feed in the absence of ruminal microorganisms (MOs). Results Release of PFAAs from feed into fermentation fluid was found to be faster for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) than for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). Differences between perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs) could not be observed. Proportions of PFAAs recovered in the fermentation fluids decreased by increasing chain lengths for the perfluoroalkyl sulfonic acids (PFSAs) (31 % PFBS, 28 % perfluorohexane sulfonic acid [PFHxS], 20 % perfluoroheptane sulfonic acid [PFHpS], 11 % PFOS) and PFCAs (33 % perfluorohexane carboxylic acid [PFHxA], 32 % perfluoroheptane carboxylic acid [PFHpA], 24 % perfluorooctanoic acid [PFOA]). In contrast, levels in feed increased with increasing chain length for both PFSAs and PFCAs. Conclusion The attachment of MOs to feed particles was assumed to account for higher PFAA levels in fermented feeds and for lower levels in the fermentation fluids. Total recovery of PFAAs was significantly lower in presence of ruminal MOs compared to experimental procedure under sterile conditions. Although, there are optimal reductive conditions for MOs in rumen, our results do not univocally indicate whether PFAAs were degraded by ruminal fermentation.