Accumulation of Perfluoroalkyl Compounds in Tibetan Mountain Snow: Temporal Patterns from 1980 to 2010


The use of snow and ice cores as recorders of environmental contamination is particularly relevant for per- and polyfluoroalky substances (PFASs) given their production history, differing source regions and varied mechanisms driving their global distribution. In a unique study perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) were analyzed in dated snow-cores obtained from high mountain glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). One snow core was obtained from the Mt Muztagata glacier (accumulation period of 1980–1999), located in western Tibet and a second core from Mt. Zuoqiupo (accumulation period: 1996–2007) located in southeastern Tibet, with fresh surface snow collected near Lake Namco in 2010 (southern Tibet). The higher concentrations of ∑PFAAs were observed in the older Mt Muztagata core and dominated by perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) (61.4–346 pg/L) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (40.8–243 pg/L), whereas in the Mt Zuoqiupu core the concentrations were lower (e.g., PFOA: 37.8–183 pg/L) with PFOS below detection limits. These differences in PFAA concentrations and composition profile likely reflect the upwind sources affecting the respective sites (e.g., European/central Asian sources for Mt Muztagata and India sources for Mt Zuoqiupu). Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) dominated the recent surface snowpack of Lake Namco which is mainly associated with India sources where the shorter chain volatile PFASs precursors predominate. The use of snow cores in different parts of Tibet provides useful recorders to examine the influence of different PFASs source regions and reflect changing PFAS production/use in the Northern Hemisphere.
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