Identification and Determination of New PFASs in Cape Fear River Water

Characterization of Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in the Environment
Oral Presentation

Prepared by , A. EATON, B. LI, J. Whitaker

Contact Information:; 626-386-1138


Ali Haghani1 , Andrew Eaton1, Yongtao Li2 , and Joshua S. Whitaker2

Eurofins Eaton Analytical, LLC1, 750 Royal Oaks Suit 100, Monrovia, CA, 91016
Eurofins Eaton Analytical, LLC 2, 110 South Hill Street, South Bend, IN, 46617

A large number (more than 3000) of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) have been estimated on the global market and extensively used in a wide variety of industrial and consumer applications. Due to the high environmental persistence, water solubility, bioaccumulation potential, and adverse human health effects, human and environment exposure to PFASs has attracted worldwide attention. The largely unknown environmental spread of PFASs into drinking water sources is of increasing scientific, regulatory, and public concern.

Over the past decade, PFASs have been detected in raw and finished drinking water. Under the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2013-2015), 62,972 drinking water samples from 4,920 participating public water systems (PWSs) were analyzed for six selected PFASs. PFOA and PFOS were detected in approximately 2% of the PWSs above the defined minimum reporting levels (MRLs) of 20 ng/L and 40 ng/L, respectively. Approximately 1% of the PWSs showed combined PFOA and PFOS results exceeding the lifetime drinking water health advisory (HA) of 70 ng/L (EPA, 2016).

In the recent efforts of legislation and restriction to the manufacturing and applications of PFASs, structurally similar alternatives have been used to replace or phase out those problematic legacy long-chain PFASs. Examples include GenX introduced by Chemours/DuPont and ADONA introduced by 3M as alternatives for PFOA. GenX has been found in the Cape Fear River since 2012. Like many other short-chain PFASs, GenX could not be removed by the conventional and most advanced drinking water treatment techniques. As a result, the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River has been publicized in the media since June of 2017 and caused tremendous public health concerns. Recent studies (Strynar et al. 2015, Sun et al. 2016, Strynar et al. 2017) have identified poly- and perfluoroalkyl ether carboxylic acids (PFECAs) in the drinking water sources contaminated by the upstream industrial wastewater discharge of manufacturing facilities.

More than a dozen emerging PFASs have been identified in the Cape Fear River water (Strynar et al. 2015, Sun et al. 2016). The contaminants were believed to be from the upstream wastewater discharge of related manufacturing facilities. In our research, triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (TQMS or MS/MS) and high resolution accurate mass spectrometry (HRAMS), combined with ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC), have been used to study the Cape Fear River water, upstream wastewater, and downstream finished drinking water. With the combined advantages of TQMS, HRAMS, and UPLC, including full scan, daughter scan, parent scan, single-reaction-monitoring (SRM)/multiple-reaction-monitoring (MRM), accurate mass measurement, and chromatographic separation, we are able to identify non-targeted/unknown PFASs.

This presentation will discuss: 1) new findings about homologous series PFASs and 2) possible analytical methodologies for quantitation and/or semi-quantitation of these new PFASs.