Issue 3, 2014

Neutral polyfluoroalkyl substances in the global Atmosphere


Concentrations of neutral per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (nPFAS) in the atmosphere are of interest because nPFAS are highly mobile percursors for perfluoroalkyl acids. Two calibration studies in Ontario, Canada and Costa Rica established the feasibility of using XAD 2-resin based passive air samplers (XAD-PAS) to reliably determine long term average air concentrations of nPFAS under temperate and tropical climatic conditions. The temporal and spatial distribution of nPFAS was investigated by analyzing XAD-PAS deployed for one year at between 17 and 46 sites on six continents between 2006 and 2011 as part of the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling (GAPS) study. Higher levels of fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs) compared to fluorinated sulfonamides (FOSAs), and fluorinated sulfonamidoethanols (FOSEs) were observed at all sites. Urban sites had the highest levels of nPFAS compared to rural and remote sites, which is also apparent in a positive correlation of nPFAS levels with the proximity of a sampling site to areas of high population density. Levels of FOSAs and FOSEs tended to decrease during the six years of measurements, whereas an initial decline in the concentrations of FTOHs from 2006 to 2008 did not continue in 2009 to 2011. A comparison of nPFAS levels measured in national XAD-PAS networks in Costa Rica and Botswana revealed that the GAPS sites in Tapanti and the Kalahari are representative of the more remote regions in those countries. XAD-PAS derived absolute nPFAS levels at GAPS sites are lower than those measured using another PAS, but are within the range of levels measured with active air samplers. Agreement of relative nPFAS composition is better between samplers, suggesting that the discrepancy is due to uncertain sampling rates.

Graphical abstract: Neutral polyfluoroalkyl substances in the global Atmosphere

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
29 Sep 2013
05 Nov 2013
First published
05 Nov 2013
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2014,16, 404-413

Neutral polyfluoroalkyl substances in the global Atmosphere

A. Gawor, C. Shunthirasingham, S. J. Hayward, Y. D. Lei, T. Gouin, B. T. Mmereki, W. Masamba, C. Ruepert, L. E. Castillo, M. Shoeib, S. C. Lee, T. Harner and F. Wania, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2014, 16, 404 DOI: 10.1039/C3EM00499F

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence. You can use material from this article in other publications without requesting further permissions from the RSC, provided that the correct acknowledgement is given.

Read more about how to correctly acknowledge RSC content.

Social activity