AbstractPolyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) have received increasing public attention because of their
ubiquitous distribution in the aquatic environment. The concentration profile of PFCs in surface
water along the River Rhine from the Lake Constance to the North Sea was investigated to identify
point sources along the river and to examine their transportation into the marine environment. The
water samples were preconcentrated by solid-phase extraction and analysed by a HPLC-MS/MS
system. The short-chained compounds perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) and perfluorobutane
sulfonate (PFBS) were found to be the dominating pollutants with concentrations up to 335 ng/L
and 181 ng/L, respectively, while the concentrations of the other PFCs were mainly below 10 ng/L.
The River Rhine downstream of the section Lower Rhine and the River Scheldt were found to be
polluted by industrial point sources. Concentrations in the North Sea ranged from 0.4 to 11.6 ng/L
total PFCs (ΣPFCs) while PFBA and PFBS were predominant at coastal stations, too. The results
indicate that the River Rhine and in addition the River Scheldt seem to be major sources of PFCs in
the North Sea whereas they might be transported into the German Bight via the easterly current.