Emerging Contaminants

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Perfluorinated Carboxylates and Sulfonates (including PFOS and PFOA)

Interest in the environmental occurrence, sources and fate of perfluorinated (or polyfluoroalkyl) compounds (PFCs) has grown considerably in the 1990s, as their widespread presence in air, water, biota and humans was reported. Classified as persistent organic contaminants, the lack of information regarding occurrence, transport, and toxicity to form regulatory guidelines firmly categorizes them as an “emerging contaminant”. Two compounds of this group, perfluorinated octane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorinated octanoic carboxylic acid (PFOA) are the most studied and have been subject to restrictions in manufacture and use. In the past two years interim regulatory guidelines for allowable levels in drinking water and fish have started to emerge.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) refers to a group of manmade chemicals and their precursors, manufactured for their properties of providing resistance to heat, oil, and stains to products. Fluorine atom(s) are introduced into the organic compounds to promulgate the desired properties. Belonging to this group are subgroups of PFCs - perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCA) which includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); and perfluorinated alkyl sulfonates which includes perfuorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Fluorotelomer alcohols are precursors to PFCAs. They are transformed in biota or in the atmosphere to produce PFCAs such as PFOA. The chemical structures of PFCs (C-F bonds) make them extremely resistant to environmental breakdown. Conventionally, PFCs are named by the number of carbon atoms in the linear chain and by the terminal group, e.g. sulphonate or carboxyl groups, respectively, in PFOS and PFOA below. Perfluorocarboxylic acids exhibit high degrees of chemical and metabolic stability. To date, C8 carboxylic acids (PFOA) exhibit the highest degree of bioaccumulation and toxicity.

AXYS began tissue analysis for PFCs in 2002 in response to growing client interest, using in-house developed methods and LC/MS/MS approaches. Initially targets were restricted to the C8 molecules, PFOS and PFOA. Concerns around a broader range of targets (particularly C4 to C12 compounds) and the availability of more labeled surrogates spurred AXYS to offer isotope dilution quantification of a broad range of PFCs and fluorotelomer alcohols in multiple matrices including water, whole blood, serum, tissues and solid phase media (e.g. XAD beads). AXYS was the first nationally accredited Canadian commercial lab for PFC analysis and is NELAC accredited for PFC analysis in Florida, Minnesota and New Jersey. AXYS occupies the forefront of commercial North American environmental analysis of PFCs.

PFCs and fluorotelomer alcohols are widely used in consumer product applications including lubricants, stain repellents (clothing and carpeting), food preparation (greaseproof packaging and non-stick cookware), pharmaceuticals, insecticides and fire-fighting foams. Their widespread use and the potential environmental consequences of their disposal, breakdown, transport and persistence have raised questions of toxicity.

General exposure to PFOS may occur through ingestion of contaminated fish and water, or with dermal contact with PFOS containing products and direct occupational exposure at workplaces where it is manufactured. PFOA is found in the blood of the general population. It remains unclear how exposure to PFOA occurs, and research to understand pathways of human exposure continues. There are few studies on the effects of PFCs on humans, however studies in laboratory rodents have indicated adverse effects of PFOS on neuroendocrine and reproductive systems and reduced neonatal survival. The US Center for Disease Control NHANES study has included both PFOS and PFOA as target analytes for continuous baseline measurement in the national population. There is clearly a growing need for highly reliable qualitative and quantitative measurement within environmental and human matrices.

AXYS specializes in measurement of PFCs to low nanogram concentrations from standard sample sizes. Our specialized sampling and analytical procedures may allow for much lower detection limits and reduced sample sizes in human and sediment matrices. We deliver legally defensible data under ISO 17025 certified systems applying methods accredited by NELAP and CALA. Electronic Data Deliverables (EDD), customized for download to our clients relational databases, are available in addition to standard format report and full data packages.

Please contact one of our Project Managers at 1 888 373 0881 or +1 (250) 655-5800 to discuss how AXYS can support your analytical advantage.

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