Non-target and suspect screening of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in Chinese municipal wastewater treatment plants
By Xuebing Wang, Nanyang Yu, Yuli Qian, Wei Shi, Xiaowei Zhang, Jinju Geng, Hongxia Yu, and Si Wei
June 30, 2020
Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) is one of the major sources of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) to the aquatic environment. In this study, wastewater samples were collected from 17 WWTPs in 17 cities of China to investigate emerging PFASs in WWTPs. To comprehensively identify PFASs in the wastewater samples, an integrated suspect screening, homologue-based and fragment-based non-target screening method is proposed. Sixty-three PFASs from 13 classes (25 subclasses) were identified, including 14 legacy and 49 emerging PFASs, and this study is the first to report on 12 of these PFASs. We found that emerging PFASs concentration had a significantly positive correlation with the gross domestic product, indicating more substitution of legacy PFASs in the developed area of China. We also analyzed the removal of the 13 PFAS classes, and found that all discovered PFAS classes were not completely removed after the treatment process, whereas the class of perfluoroalkyl ether alcohols significantly increased. All of these results imply that the release of emerging or unknown PFASs from WWTPs is a universal but not negligible problem in China.