Landfill Gas: A Major Pathway for Neutral Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS) Release

By Ashley M. Lin, Jake T. Thompson, Jeremy P. Koelmel, Yalan Liu, John A. Bowden, and Timothy G. Townsend
June 26, 2024
DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.4c00364

The undisclosed and ubiquitous use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in consumer products has led to a growing issue of environmental pollution, particularly within the solid waste community, where the fate of volatile (neutral) PFAS in landfilled refuse is not well understood. Here, three municipal solid waste landfills in Florida were assessed for neutral PFAS in landfill gas and ionic PFAS in landfill leachate to compare the relative mobility between the two pathways. Landfill gas was directly sampled using a high volume, XAD-2 resin based sampling approach developed for adsorption and analysis of 27 neutral PFAS. Across sites, 13 neutral PFAS were identified from fluorotelomer alcohol (FTOH), fluorotelomer olefin (FTO), secondary FTOH, fluorotelomer acetate (FTOAc), and fluorotelomer methyl acrylate (FTMAc) classes; however, FTOHs dominated concentrations (87–97% total neutral PFAS), with most detections surpassing utilized calibration levels. Even under conservative assumptions, the mass of fluorine leaving in landfill gas (32–76%) was comparable to or greater than the mass leaving in landfill leachate (24–68%). These findings suggest that landfill gas, a less scrutinized byproduct, serves as a major pathway for the mobility of PFAS from landfills.

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