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Perfluorinated phosphonic acids in Canadian surface waters and wastewater treatment plant effluent: Discovery of a new class of perfluorinated acids


  • This work was reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and approved for publication but does not necessarily reflect official Agency policy.

  • Published on the Web 5/22/2009.


The environmental prevalence of a new class of perfluorinated acids, the perfluorinated phosphonic acids (PFPAs), was determined in Canadian surface waters and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent. For quality control and comparison, the C8- to C11-perfluorinated carboxylic acids and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid were included in the analysis. Water samples were extracted using weak anion-exchange solid-phase extraction cartridges. Perfluorinated phosphonic acids were observed in 80% of surface water samples and in six of the seven WWTP effluent samples. The C8-PFPA was observed at concentrations ranging from 88 ± 33 to 3,400 ± 900 pg/L in surface waters and from 760 ± 270 to 2,500 ± 320 pg/L in WWTP effluent. To our knowledge, this is the first observation of PFPAs in the environment. Given their structural similarities with perfluorinated carboxylic and sulfonic acids, PFPAs are expected to be persistent. The observation of PFPAs in the majority of samples analyzed here suggests they are prevalent environmental contaminants and should be considered in future environmental monitoring campaigns to better understand the total burden of fluorinated materials in the environment.

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