[Opinion] Speaking the Same Language: The Need for Accurate and Consistent Reporting of Novel Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

By Benjamin J. Place and Jared M. Ragland
July 18, 2022
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c04273

"Over the past decade, a vast number of peer-reviewed publications presented “novel” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) identified in commercial mixtures or environmental samples. Some are commercial products; others are previously unknown transformation products of other PFAS. Based on the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Suspect List of Possible PFAS, there are nearly 100 publications (peer-reviewed and other literature) that provide structures for novel PFAS produced using nontargeted analysis (NTA). (1)

Structures for PFAS vary by fluoroalkyl chain length and arrangement (linear vs branched) and the presence of nonfluorinated functional groups. (2) Researchers reporting novel PFAS often rely on acronyms and systematic naming rules to describe compounds. (2) Substructure naming (e.g., sulfonamides and carboxylic acids) communicates underlying chemistry, environmental properties, and subclasses of PFAS. (2)

Unfortunately, different nomenclature rules have resulted in identical compounds with multiple identifiers (Figure 1). Structural comparisons are vital to identify or determine the novelty of PFAS when using NTA, the analytical approach for chemical characterization of a material by identifying unknown compounds in a mixture without a priori knowledge about chemical composition."


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