Emerging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in surface water and sediment of the North and Baltic Seas


Along with the phase-out of legacy long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs), perfluoroalkane sulfonic acids (PFSAs) and their precursors, attention has been drawn to emerging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). This study is aimed at investigating the importance of selected emerging PFASs as pollutants in European coastal environments and a possible transition from legacy long-chain PFCAs and PFSAs to replacement compounds. Therefore, the spatial distribution of 29 PFASs was analysed in surface water and sediment of the North and Baltic Seas sampled in 2017. Levels of the replacement compound HFPO-DA were approximately three times higher than those of its predecessor PFOA in surface water from the North Sea, which is characterised by the influence of point sources and constant exchange with open water. Reanalysis of sample extracts from the last decade showed that HFPO-DA had already been present in 2011, when it had not yet been in focus. In the Baltic Sea with a limited water exchange and dominance of diffuse sources, the proportion of HFPO-DA was negligible, whereas long-chain PFCAs and PFSAs still contributed to ∑PFASs with about 30%. The emerging cyclic compound perfluoro-4-ethylcyclohexanesulfonate (PFECHS), which has not yet been reported in European coastal environments, was detected in 86% of the Baltic Sea samples. Influenced by sediment characteristics in addition to source-specific contributions, the spatial distribution of PFASs in surface sediments was more variable than for water samples. The linear isomer of the long-chain legacy substance PFOS was the predominant compound found over the entire study area. Of the emerging PFASs, 6:6 and 6:8 perfluoroalkyl phosphinic acids (PFPiAs) were identified close to potential industrial inputs and in sedimentation areas. The results show that particular emerging PFASs play a relevant role in the investigated coastal environments and that a shift to replacements is dependent on sources and geographical conditions.
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