The potential for airborne emissions to undergo long-range transport or to be removed from the atmosphere is influenced by their physical-chemical properties. When perfluorooctanate (PFO) enters the environment, its physical-chemical properties can vary significantly, depending on whether it exists as an acid, a salt, or a dissociated ion. A summary of the physical-chemical properties of the three most likely environmental states: ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and the dissociated perfluorooctanoate anion (PFO−) is presented to illustrate the distinct environmental properties of each. The most volatile species, PFOA, is shown to have a pH-dependent air–water partitioning coefficient (Kaw). The variability of Kaw with pH influences the potential for vapor formation from aqueous environments, including rain events. Using the pH-dependent Kaw and measured rain and air concentrations, it is shown that vapor-phase PFOA is not likely to be present above measurable levels of 0.2 ng m−3 (12 parts per quadrillion v/v) during a rain event. Because rain concentrations determined in this work are comparable to measurements in other parts of North America, it is unlikely that rain events are a significant source of vapor-phase PFOA for the general North American region. It is shown that PFOA exists primarily in the particle phase in ambient air near direct sources of emissions and is efficiently scavenged by rain droplets, making wet deposition an important removal mechanism for emissions originating as either PFOA or APFO. Washout ratios of particle-associated PFO were determined to range between 1 × 105 and 5 × 105, in the same range as other semi-volatile compounds for which wet deposition is an important mechanism for atmospheric removal and deposition onto soils and water bodies.
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