Sequestration and potential release of PFAS from spent engineered sorbents

By Kah, Melanie, Danielle Oliver, and Rai Kookana
Sci of Tot Env
October 14, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142770

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have contaminated land and water at numerous sites worldwide that now require remediation. The most common approach for treating contaminated water currently relies on removal of PFAS by sorption. The spent sorbents loaded with PFAS can potentially be disposed of at landfills, provided the sorbed contaminants remain sequestered and certain risk criteria are met. Hence, it is essential that remediation sorbents (i) rapidly adsorb a large variety of PFAS under varying water chemistry conditions, and (ii) do not release the adsorbed PFAS in due course. This review aims at establishing the current state of knowledge about the potential release of PFAS that may occur during and after treatment. The scientific literature currently provides data for a very restricted range of long-chain PFAS. Our knowledge of the dynamics of PFAS adsorption processes on engineered sorbents is limited, and even less is known about their desorption processes. The sorption of PFAS can be strongly affected by changes in the solution pH, ionic strength and dissolved organic matter content, and the process is also subject to complex competition mechanisms in the presence of other PFAS as well as organic contaminants and inorganic salts. Several studies suggest that changes in one or several of these factors may trigger the release of PFAS from engineered sorbents. This phenomenon is more likely to occur for PFAS with shorter carbon chain lengths (


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