Identification of Branched and Linear Forms of PFOA and Potential Precursors: A User-Friendly SMILES Structure-based Approach.

By Ann M Richard, Hannah Hidle, Grace Patlewicz, and Antony J Williams
Front Environ Sci
May 10, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2022.865488

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and related compounds are per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) of concern from toxicological, environmental, and regulatory perspectives. In 2019, the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants listed PFOA, its salts, and PFOA-related compounds in Annex A to the Convention. Additionally, the listing specifically included PFOA branched isomers and compounds containing a perfluoroheptyl (C7F15)C moiety, with some noted exclusions. A draft updated "Indicative List" of 393 PFASs (335 with defined structures), each specified as falling within or outside the listing, was released for comment in 2021. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's CompTox Chemicals Dashboard has published a curated PFAS list containing more than 10,700 structures. Applying the PFOA and related compounds listing definition to screen this list required a structure-based approach capable of discerning salts and branched or linear forms of the (C7F15)C moiety. A PFOA SMILES workflow and associated Excel macro file, developed to address this need, applies a series of text substitution rules to a set of canonicalized SMILES structure representations to convert branched forms of the (C7F15)C moiety to linear forms to aid their detection. The approach correctly classified each Stockholm Convention draft Indicative List structure relative to the PFOA and related compounds definition, and accurately discerned branched and linear forms of the (C7F15)C moiety in over 10,700 PFAS structures with 100% sensitivity (no false negatives) and 99.7% accuracy (35 false positives). Approximately 20% of structures in the large PFAS list fell within the PFOA and related compounds definition, and 10% of those were branched. The present work highlights the need to computationally detect branched forms of PFASs and promotes the use of unambiguous, structure-based definitions, along with tools that are publicly available and easy to use, to support clear communication and regulatory action within the PFAS community.

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