AbstractPolyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) were investigated in waste water treatment plant (WWTP) effluents and surface waters of the River Elbe from samples collected in 2007. Concentrations of various PFCs, including C4–C8 perfluorinated sulfonates (PFSAs), C6 and C8 perfluorinated sulfinates, 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate, C5–C13 perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs), C4 and C8 perfluoroalkyl sulfonamides and 6:2, 8:2 and 10:2 unsaturated fluorotelomercarboxylic acids were quantified. ∑PFC concentrations of the river water ranged from 7.6 to 26.4 ng L−1, whereas ∑PFC concentrations of WWTP effluents were approximately 5–10 times higher (30.5–266.3 ng L−1), indicating that WWTPs are potential sources of PFCs in the marine environment. PFC patterns of different WWTP effluents varied depending on the origin of the waste water, whereas the profile of PFC composition in the river water was relatively constant. In both kinds of water samples, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was the major PFC, whereas perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) was the predominant PFSA.