The Current Status of PFAS
Scientific Officer, Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories Environmental
The current state of PFAS, of the PFAS market ... as soon as I pen this article some items will be out of date. That is the reality that many of us in the environmental monitoring and analysis community have dealt with over the course of the last 1 to 2 years. It has been a struggle to keep up, let alone stay ahead of this rapidly evolving market. As many of the analysts in our PFAS group can attest, the changing requirements and demands are, at times, equally frustrating and exhilarating. Let’s review some of the events that we have observed over the last couple of years.
• EPA posted Health Advisory Levels for PFOA and PFOS at 70 ng/l for either compound or the sum of the two. This concentration was a substantial drop from the previous levels of 200 ng/l and 400 ng/l. This created some concern over the ability of the analysis performed by we laboratories to meet the new health advisories.
• The Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC) initiated a PFAS Team to add to its complement of active teams. The PFAS team rapidly grew to the largest in the history of the ITRC with over 350 team members representing state and federal regulators, academia and industry (industrial, consultants and laboratories). The team was split into subgroups, each responsible for specific areas of the PFAS knowledge base; (1) History and Use of Environmental Sources, (2) Nomenclature Overview and Physicochemical Properties, (3) Fate and Transport, (4) Site Characterization Tools, Sampling Techniques, and Laboratory Analytical Methods, (5) Remediation Technologies and Methods, and (6) Regulatory Summary. The work product of each of these groups will be a technical fact sheet followed by a detailed technical-regulatory guidance document.
• Researchers like Dr. Jennifer Fields at Oregon State University and Dr. Christopher Higgins at Colorado School of Mines continue to publish on the breadth and variety of compounds associated with fluorochemical surfactants and AFFF impacted sites in particular. Work published by their co-workers and colleagues estimate upwards of 3,000 compounds associated with AFFF formulations. Estimates like that make the 30-40 targeted compound analysis that several of we laboratories offer seem inadequate. However, our targeted analyses are limited by the analytical standards available to us.
• The disparity in compounds alluded to in the previous bullet is often referred to as the “hidden mass” of PFAS contamination. One approach to look at this hidden mass that has gotten a lot of attention is the Total Oxidizable Precursors (TOP) Assay. The TOP Assay came out of a paper published by Erika Houtz and David Sedlak. The concept is that out of this hidden mass, there are many compounds that can be considered precursors to perfluorinated carboxylic acids. When these precursor compounds are subjected to oxidative conditions, they transform to the perfluorinated acids. So if we analyze a sample before oxidations and a second after oxidation, we can get a handle on the hidden mass.
• We learned about PFAS “replacement” compounds, as they have been referred to. Specifically, a compound referred to as GenX, that had been used instead of PFOA for some manufacturing processes, was found at sites in North Carolina. This brought awareness to a class of PFAS compounds known as perfluoroether carboxylic acids, which we laboratories have been tasked with setting up analytical methods for.
• Most of the national environmental conferences over the last 1-2 years, like Battelle, SETAC, EMDQ Workshop, NEMC, AEHS and ACS National meetings, have had at least one day of sessions and often two committed to sharing knowledge and findings with regard to all aspects of PFAS. There also has been no shortage of regional or state-based symposium covering the same.
Eurofins is working hard to not only keep up, but stay ahead of the rapidly evolving “state of PFAS.” From chairing sessions at NEMC, presentations and posters at all of the conferences listed above, to offering TOP Assay, GenX analysis and a broad range of PFAS compounds in a wide variety of matrices, Eurofins is your lab for PFAS.