PFASs in the Nordic environment

Screening of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) and Extractable Organic Fluorine (EOF) in the Nordic Environment

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This report describes a screening study of in all ninety-nine conventional and emerging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in the Nordic environment. In addition, extractable organic fluorine (EOF) was analysed. The latter can provide the amount, but not identity, of organofluorine in the samples, which in turn can be used to assess the mass balance between known and unknown PFASs. The study was initiated by the Nordic Screening Group and funded by these and the Nordic Council of Ministers through the Chemicals Group.A total of 102 samples were analyzed in this study, including bird eggs, fish, marine mammals, terrestrial mammals, surface water, WWTP effluents and sludge, and air. Samples were collected by institutes from the participating countries and self-governing areas; Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.




This screening study demonstrated the need to include more PFAS classes in environmental assessments. Shorter chain PFASs with carbon chain lengths of 2—4 were frequently detected in surface water and WWTP effluent. Although poor bioaccumulators, their high persistency might lead to unknown future effects. Precursor compounds contributed to the total PFASs in the present study and were frequently detected in many matrices. It is therefore important to not only include stable end-products in environmental monitoring aiming at identifying sources. Several novel PFASs were detected in biota, water and air in the present study. Considering the large number of PFASs on the global market it can be expected that more PFASs are yet to be discovered in environmental samples. Extractable organic fluorine analysis showed that there is a large proportion of unknown extractable organofluorine in the Nordic environment. The identity of the additional organofluorine substances contributing to the measured extractable fluorine in environmental samples needs to be elucidated to further assess future risks.


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