Perfluoroalkyl acids on suspended particles: Significant transport pathways in surface runoff, surface waters, and subsurface soils

By Borthakur Annesh, Meng Wang, Meng He, Katia Ascencio, Jens Blotevogel, David T. Adamson, Shaily Mahendra, and Sanjay K. Mohanty
J Hazard Mater .
July 13, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.126159

Eroded particles from the source zone could transport a high concentration of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) to sediments and water bodies. Yet, the contribution of suspended particles has not been systematically reviewed. Analyzing reported studies, we quantitatively demonstrate that suspended particles in surface water can contain significantly higher concentrations of PFAAs than the sediment below, indicating the source of suspended particles are not the sediment but particles eroded and carried from the source zone upstream. The affinity of PFAAs to particles depends on the particle composition, including organic carbon fraction and iron or aluminum oxide content. In soils, most PFAAs are retained within the top 5 m below the ground surface. The distribution of PFAAs in the subsurface varies based on site properties and local weather conditions. The depth corresponding to the maximum concentration of PFAA in soil decreases with an increase in soil organic carbon or rainfall amount received in the catchment areas. We attribute a greater accumulation of PFAAs near the upper layer of the subsurface to an increase in the accumulation of particles eroded from source zones upstream receiving heavy rainfall. Precursor transformation in the aerobic zone is significantly higher than in the anaerobic zone, thereby making the aerobic subsurface zone serve as a long-term source of groundwater pollution. Collectively, these results suggest that suspended particles, often an overlooked vector for PFAAs, can be a dominant pathway for the transport of PFAAs in environments.


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