Detection of ultrashort-chain and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in U.S. bottled water

By Chow, Steven J., Nadezda Ojeda, Joseph G. Jacangelo, and Kellogg J. Schwab
Water Research
June 2, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117292

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are compounds of emerging concern due to their persistence in the global water cycle and detection in drinking water sources. However, PFAS have been poorly studied in bottled water, especially in the United States. This study investigated the occurrence of PFAS and related factors in 101 uniquely labelled bottled water products for sale in the U.S. Products were screened for 32 target PFAS by solid phase extraction-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (SPE-LC-MS/MS). Fifteen of 32 measured analytes were detected, consisting primarily of C3-C10 perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCA) and C3-C6 and C8 perfluorosulfonic acids (PFSA). PFAS were detected above method detection limits in 39/101 tested products. The ∑32PFAS concentrations detected were 0.17-18.87 ng/L with a median of 0.98 ng/L; 97% of samples were below 5 ng/L. PFCA (83%) and short-chain perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAA) containing 5 or less CF2 groups (67%) were more prevalent on a mass basis than PFSA and longer-chain PFAA, respectively. Ultrashort-chain PFPrA, measured for the first time in bottled water, accounted for the greatest individual fraction of detected PFAS mass (42%) and was found almost exclusively in products labeled as Spring water. Purified water products contained significantly less PFAS than Spring water products, which was attributed to the use of reverse osmosis (RO) treatment in the majority of Purified waters (25/35) compared to Spring waters (1/45). RO-treated products contained significantly lower ∑32PFAS, long-chain, short-chain, and PFPrA concentrations than products without RO. Although no enforceable PFAS regulations exist for bottled water in the U.S., the finding that some products approach levels of concern justify a framework for monitoring PFAS in bottled water production.


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