The impact of risk management measures on the concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in source and treated drinking waters in Ontario, Canada

By Sonya Kleywegt, Melanie Raby, Stephanie McGill, and Paul Helm
Sci. Total Environ.
August 25, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141195

Risk management measures (RMMs) are a broad set of tools used in global treaties and national regulations to manage, ban or restrict the use of toxic chemicals. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulate, biomagnify and are inherently toxic to the environment and human health. For these reasons global RMMs have been imposed on the manufacture and use of select PFAS. To evaluate the occurrence and potential current risk of PFAS in the Ontario environment, PFAS were quantitatively measured in source waters pre- (2005-2007) and post- (2012-2016, 2018-2019) implementation of RMMs. Source water samples were collected pre- (n = 105), and post-RMMs (n = 326) from lake, river and groundwater and analyzed for up to 14 PFAS. Pre-RMMs, the most frequently detected PFAS in source water were perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA; 83%) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS; 76%) followed by perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS; 47%) and the maximum ∑PFAS was 42.1 ng/L. Post-RMMs, the maximum ∑PFAS (which includes PFOS) was statistically significantly reduced to 15.5 ng/L, well below the Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines for PFOS. To evaluate post-RMMs risk to human health, 226 drinking water samples were collected from 25 drinking water systems with conventional and advanced treatment. All individual (or ∑PFAS) concentrations are well below current and proposed Health advisory levels or regulatory guidelines/standards for PFAS in drinking water with calculated Risk Quotients (RQ) <0.02. This survey indicates that the implementation of RMMs for select PFAS have made a significant difference to the concentrations detected in source waters in Ontario, Canada.

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