AbstractThe spatial distributions and seasonal variations of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in surface waters were investigated for the German rivers Elbe and lower Weser, and the North Sea. ∑PFAS concentrations ranged from 4.1 to 250 ng L−1 in the River Elbe, from 3.8 to 16 ng L−1 in the lower Weser, and from 0.13 to 10 ng L−1 in the North Sea. The most abundant compound was perfluorobutanesulfonate (PFBS) with a proportion of 24% in river water and 31% in seawater samples. The concentrations of perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in Elbe River water showed significant seasonal variation in 2011. The seasonal variations might be related to the variations of water discharge. The highest concentrations of PFOA and PFHxA were detected in August. Pearson correlations showed that perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) and PFBS had different sources from other PFASs, and the current manufacturing and use of C4-based products could explain the distinction. The estimated fluxes of individual substances and ∑PFASs in the River Elbe showed no significant seasonal variation. The annual fluxes of PFASs to the North Sea were estimated to be 335 ± 100 kg year−1 from the River Elbe and 102 ± 22 kg year−1 from the River Weser.