Detection of PFAS pollution in environmental samples – A Fast & sensitive PFAS sum parameter method using HR-CS-GFMAS


L. Gehrenkemper, F. Simon, M. von der Au, B. Meermann

Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), Division 1.1 – Inorganic Trace Analysis, Richard-Willstätter-Straße 11, 12489 Berlin

The substance class of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) comprises more than 5200 organic compounds. PFAS are completely fluorinated on at least one carbon atom. They are associated with negative impacts on human and animal health, are extremely persistent in the environment, and bioaccumulate along food chains. Therefore, PFAS are classified as emerging pollutants. At the same time, their physicochemical properties make them attractive for use in diverse technical applications. They are both hydrophobic and lipophobic and show high thermal as well as chemical resistance due to the strong C-F bond.

First regulations of some PFAS in combination with the technically excellent properties generated an innovation pressure and led to an enormous increase in the number of fluorinated substitution compounds. Due to the increasing complexity of this substance class, target analysis is not able to cover such a variety and multitude of analytes.

Therefore, a suitable PFAS sum parameter method is necessary for an accurate detection of PFAS pollution in the environment, the identification of PFAS hotspots and an evaluation of appropriate remediation measures.

Here we provide insights into the current state of PFAS sum parameter development and present our latest results on method development for the quantitative analysis of PFAS as extractable organically bound fluorine (EOF) in environmental samples using high-resolution molecular absorption spectrometry (HR-CS-GFMAS). For this purpose, we optimized the extraction of PFAS from different solid matrices with simultaneous separation of inorganic fluoride. For quantification resulting extracts were measured using a fluorine specific HR-CS-GFMAS method. By adding gallium salt solutions as modifiers in HR-CS-GFMAS, fluorine can be indirectly quantified very selectively by the in situ formation of GaF with low limits of quantification (instrumental LOQ c(F) < 3 µg/L). Here we will show results from real soil samples from sites with and without known contamination.