Risks posed by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on the African continent, with an emphasis on aquatic ecosystems

By Thimo Groffen, Bossissi Nkuba, Victor Wepener, and Lieven Bervoets
Integr Environ Assess Manag
March 16, 2021
DOI: 10.1002/ieam.4404

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are organic pollutants that may pose adverse effects on the ecosystem. Despite their global presence, there is currently still limited knowledge on PFAS on the African continent as monitoring of PFAS is challenging and often not feasible due to the lack of analytical capacity and high costs. However, there is a need to understand the environmental risks posed by these chemicals in developing countries, as increasing urbanization will likely lead to an increase of PFAS contamination in the environment. Although as far as known PFAS concentrations in the African aquatic environment are generally low compared to more developed countries in the world, exceedances of ecological quality standards (EQS) were reported in a few cases, providing evidence for potential ecological risks at these ecosystems. However, the number of ecosystems at risk will likely increase due to the increasing urbanization and modernization of African countries. Therefore, environmental regulations should be updated and implemented to reduce any further contamination of the aquatic environment with these chemicals. In addition, analytical laboratories in Africa should develop their capacity to detect PFAS and related compounds regularly and on a routine basis. Local hotspots need to be identified, the influence of these hotspots on the PFAS burden in the environment should be investigated, and environmental regulations should be implemented for these hotspots in order to reduce their environmental impact. Therefore, we recommend a more routine monitoring of PFAS, including new PFAS that are currently used as PFOA and PFOS alternatives, not regulated and of environmental concern. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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