Extending the knowledge about PFAS bioaccumulation factors for agricultural plants - A review

By Lukas Lesmeister, Frank Thomas Lange, Jörn Breuer, Annegret Biegel-Engler, Evelyn Giese, and Marco Scheurer
Sci Total Environ
October 27, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142640

A main source of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) residues in agricultural plants is their uptake from contaminated soil. Bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) can be an important tool to derive recommendations for cultivation or handling of crops prior consumption. This review compiles >4500 soil-to-plant BAFs for 45 PFASs from 24 studies involving 27 genera of agricultural crops. Grasses (Poaceae) provided most BAFs with the highest number of values for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid. Influencing factors on PFAS transfer like compound-specific properties (hydrophobicity, chain length, functional group, etc.), plant species, compartments, and other boundary conditions are critically discussed. Throughout the literature, BAFs were higher for vegetative plant compartments than for reproductive and storage organs. Decreasing BAFs per additional perfluorinated carbon were clearly apparent for aboveground parts (up to 1.16 in grains) but not always for roots (partly down to zero). Combining all BAFs per single perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acid (C4-C14) and sulfonic acid (C4-C10), median log BAFs decreased by -0.25(±0.029) and -0.24(±0.013) per fluorinated carbon, respectively. For the first time, the plant uptake of ultra-short-chain (≤ C3) perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) was reviewed and showed a ubiquitous occurrence of trifluoroacetic acid in plants independent from the presence of other PFAAs. Based on identified knowledge gaps, it is suggested to focus on the uptake of precursors to PFAAs, PFAAs ≤C3, and additional emerging PFASs such as GenX or fluorinated ethers in future research. Studies regarding the uptake of PFASs by sugar cane, which accounts for about one fifth of the global crop production, are completely lacking and are also recommended. Furthermore, aqueous soil leachates should be tested as an alternative to the solvent extraction of soils as a base for BAF calculations.

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