Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a large group of compounds characterized by a linear aliphatic backbone, a high degree of fluorination and often feature a carboxylic- or sulfonic- acid functionality. These chemical characteristics make PFAS highly resistant to heat, oil, and water.
As a result, for many years these remarkable materials have found a multitude of uses, such as components of carpeting, rain/waterproof clothing, non-stick cookware, and firefighting foams. PFAS are unfortunately extremely resistant to degradation in the environment and strongly bioaccumulate. Because of their strong tendency to bioaccumulate, PFAS compounds are widely found at trace levels in both humans and animals in the developed world.
PFASs have the ability to stay in the environment for a long period of time. Long environmental exposure means that PFASs can accumulate in organisms to levels that can cause a harmful chain reaction.
These same chemical properties also raise concerns about potential adverse health effects. The most studied PFAS chemicals, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctanoic sulfonate), have shown to cause reproductive and developmental issues in the liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Studies indicated that both chemicals could cause tumors in animals. However, the most consistent health effects found were increased cholesterol levels, low birth weight, immune system deficiency, and cancer.
Traces of PFAS can be found in your food from either the packaging materials, the equipment used during food processing, and contaminated soil and water. More common PFAS hiding spots include commercial household products, like stain and water repellent fabrics, nonstick products (i.e. Teflon), polishes, paints, and cleaning products.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even reported that since PFAS is commonly found in firefighting foams—there is a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training courses take place.
It is nearly impossible to completely avoid the consumption of PFAS, as it can be found in your home, work place, drinking water, and even in the fish and chicken you eat. However, certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs and the PFOA Stewardship Program—eight major chemical manufacturers who agreed to eliminate the use of PFOA and PFOS-related chemicals in their products and emissions from their facilities.
Even though these chemicals are no longer manufactured in the U.S., they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the U.S. in the form of consumer goods.
Luckily, researchers state that the adverse effects of PFASs on the general human population are very unlikely due to the low levels of exposure.
There is still so much to learn and study surrounding PFAS and their common chemicals.
Our Perfluoroalkyl Substances Application Guide, covers everything you might need for PFAS analysis method development.
The featured PFAS applications include the analysis of drinking water and sediments using a variety of usable chromatographic solutions, such as UHPLC-MS/MS, QuEChERS, LC-MS/MS, on and off-line SPE, and direct injection LC-MS/MS.
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