PFAS or “per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances” are highly persistent organofluorine compounds which are used in a wide variety of industries to create firefighting foams, waterproof or greaseproof protective coatings and chemically resistant parts. Since the time of the Korean War, PFAS have been manufactured and incorporated into many products sold worldwide. Many PFAS are soluble in water and have been carried globally through the water cycle. However, over 80% of PFAS in the environment are thought to be accumulated in organisms and food. PFAS are bioaccumulative but are not found in fat: they are mostly found in proteinaceous tissue such as blood, liver and kidneys and are known to pass through placenta from pregnant mother to child. 99% of Americans have PFAS levels in the blood. Prolonged and high levels of PFAS have been linked to systemic immunosuppression and other health conditions such as cancer, liver damage and hormone disruption.
Although manufacture of PFOS and PFOA (aka “legacy PFAS”) have ceased in North America, new “replacement PFAS” alternatives are being synthesized every day and the health effects of these chemicals are still unknown. There are over 5000 different PFAS substances currently in use. PFAS are used to create Teflon (non-stick cookware), all-weather waterproof clothing, automotive chrome plating, coatings on fast-food paper wrappers and aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) for firefighting applications.
The Pacific Rim Labs team is ISO 17025 accredited to test for 28 PFAS in water and soil down to parts per trillion levels. This includes PFOS, PFOA, PFBS, GenX and fluorotelomer sulfonates.
Please see our recent work presented at SETAC on the use of high-pressure extraction for the recovery of long-chain PFAS from tissue and soil.