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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg: Suspect Screening Reveals Point Source-Specific Patterns of Emerging and Novel Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in German and Chinese Rivers br

Joerss, Hanna; Menger, Frank; Tang, Jianhui; Ebinghaus, Ralf; Ahrens, Lutz


Only a few dozens of the several thousand existing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are monitored usingconventional target analysis. This study employed suspectscreening to examine patterns of emerging and novel PFAS inGerman and Chinese river water affected by industrial pointsources. In total, 86 PFAS were (tentatively) identified andgrouped into 18 structure categories. Homologue patterns revealeddistinct differences betweenfluoropolymer production sites of thetwo countries. In the Chinese Xiaoqing River Basin, the C8homologue was the most prevalent compound of the emergingseries of chlorinated perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (Cl-PFCAs)and perfluoroalkylether carboxylic acids (PFECAs). In contrast, C6and shorter homologues were dominant in the German Alz River.This indicates that the phaseout of long-chain compounds in Europe and their ongoing production in Asian countries also apply tounregulated emerging PFAS classes. Additional characteristics to differentiate the point sources were the peak area ratio ofperfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) versus the emerging compound hydro-substituted PFBS (H-PFBS) as well as the occurrenceof byproducts of the sulfonated tetrafluoroethylene-based polymer Nafion. The large number of identified unregulated PFASunderlines the importance of a grouping approach on a regulatory level, whereas the revealed contamination patterns can be used toestimate, prioritize, and minimize contributions of specific sources


high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS); quadrupole time-of-flight (QToF); surface water; emerging contaminants; organic pollutants; PFAS; homologous series; Kendrick mass defect

Published in

Environmental Science and Technology
2022, volume: 56, number: 9, pages: 5456-5465

Authors' information

Joerss, Hanna
University of Hamburg
Menger, Frank
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Tang, Jianhui
Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research, CAS
Ebinghaus, Ralf
Helmholtz-Centre Geesthacht Centre for Material and Coastal Research
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

UKÄ Subject classification

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
Environmental Sciences

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