LC-HRMS screening of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in impregnated paper samples and contaminated soils

By Bugsel, Boris, Rebecca Bauer, Florian Herrmann, Martin E. Maier, and Christian Zwiener
Anal Bioanal Chem
July 13, 2021
DOI: 10.1007/s00216-021-03463-9

High per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS) concentrations have been detected in agricultural soils in Southwest Germany. Discharges of PFAS-contaminated paper sludge and compost are suspected to be the cause of the contamination. Perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) have been detected also in groundwater, drinking water, and plants in this area. Recently, previously unknown compounds have been identified by high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS). Major contaminants were polyfluorinated dialkylated phosphate esters (diPAPs) and N-ethyl perfluorooctane sulfonamide ethanol-based phosphate diester (diSAmPAP). In this study, HRMS screening for PFAS was applied to 14 soil samples from the contaminated area and 14 impregnated paper samples which were from a similar period than the contamination. The paper samples were characterized by diPAPs (from 4:2/6:2 to 12:2/12:2), fluorotelomer mercapto alkyl phosphates (FTMAPs; 6:2/6:2 to 10:2/10:2), and diSAmPAP. In soil samples, diPAPs and their transformation products (TPs) were the major contaminants, but also FTMAPs, diSAmPAP, and their TPs occurred. The distribution patterns of the carbon chain lengths of the precursor PFAS in soil samples were shown to resemble those in paper samples. This supports the hypothesis that paper sludge is a major source of contamination. The presence of major degradation products like PFCAs, FTSAs, or PFOS and their distribution of carbon chain lengths indicate the activity of biotic or abiotic degradation processes and selective leaching processes from the upper soil horizons.


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