Ice core record of persistent short‐chain fluorinated alkyl acids: Evidence of the impact from global environmental regulations

By Heidi M. Pickard, Alison S. Criscitiello, Daniel Persaud, Christine Spencer, Derek C. G. Muir, Igor Lehnherr, Martin J. Sharp, Amila O. De Silva, and Cora J. Young
Geophy. Res. L
May 5, 2020
DOI: 10.1029/2020GL087535

Short chain perfluoroalkylcarboxylic acids (scPFCAs, CxF2x+1COOH, x≤3) are persistent compounds formed from atmospheric oxidation of fluorotelomer compounds and chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) replacements introduced as a result of the Montreal Protocol. Understanding sources and impacts of scPFCAs has been limited by observational data. We report multi‐decadal depositional fluxes for trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), perfluoropropionic acid (PFPrA), and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) from two Arctic ice cores. Fluxes of all three scPFCAs increase starting around 1990. Through comparison with chemical transport models and assessment of temporal trends, we observe the importance of CFC replacements in the increased deposition of TFA. Fluorotelomer degradation may contribute to the deposition of PFBA but is insignificant for TFA and PFPrA. Deposition of TFA is expected to increase as new CFC replacement compounds are phased in. This work demonstrates the increased environmental burden of persistent and potentially toxic scPFCAs as a result of global regulation.

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