Non-target discovery and risk prediction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and transformation products in wastewater treatment systems

By Ting Liu, Li-Xin Hu, Yu Han, Sheng Xiao, Liang-Li Dong, Yuan-Yuan Yang, You-Sheng Liu, Jian-Liang Zhao, and Guang-Guo Ying
J Hazard Mater
July 2, 2024
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2024.135081

Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) serve as the main destination of many wastes containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Here, we investigated the occurrence and transformation of PFAS and their transformation products (TPs) in wastewater treatment systems using high-resolution mass spectrometry-based target, suspect, and non-target screening approaches. The results revealed the presence of 896 PFAS and TPs in aqueous and sludge phases, of which 687 were assigned confidence levels 1-3 (46 PFAS and 641 TPs). Cyp450 metabolism and environmental microbial degradation were found to be the primary metabolic transformation pathways for PFAS within WWTPs. An estimated 52.3 %, 89.5 %, and 13.6 % of TPs were believed to exhibit persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity effects, respectively, with a substantial number of TPs posing potential health risks. Notably, the length of the fluorinated carbon chain in PFAS and TPs was likely associated with increased hazard, primarily due to the influence of biodegradability. Ultimately, two high riskcompounds were identified in the effluent, including one PFAS (Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid) and one enzymatically metabolized TP (23-(Perfluorobutyl)tricosanoic acid@BTM0024_cyp450). It is noteworthy that the toxicity of some TPs exceeded that of their parent compounds. The results from this study underscores the importance of PFAS TPs and associated environmental risks.

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