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Four chemical trends will shape the next decade's directions in perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances research

: Kotthoff, Matthias; Bücking, Mark

Fulltext (PDF; )

Frontiers in Chemistry 6 (2018), Art. 103, 6 pp.
ISSN: 2296-2646
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IME ()
per- and polyfluoroalky substances; PFAS; analytical chemistry; consumer product; PMT substance; PBT substance

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) represent a versatile group of ubiquitously occurring chemicals of increasing regulatory concern. The past years lead to an ever expanding portfolio of detected anthropogenic PFAS in numerous products encountered in daily life. Yet no clear picture of the full range of individual substance that comprise PFAS is available and this challenges analytical and engineering sciences. Authorities struggle to cope with uncertainties in managing risk of harm posed by PFAS. This is a result of an incomplete understanding of the range of compounds that they comprise in differing products. There are analytical uncertainties identifying PFAS and estimating the concentrations of the total PFAS load individual molecules remain unknown. There are four major trends from the chemical perspective that will shape PFAS research for the next decade.
1. Mobility: A wide and dynamic distribution of short chain PFAS due to their high polarity, persistency and volatility.
2. Substitution of regulated substances: The ban or restrictions of individual molecules will lead to a replacement with substitutes of similar concern.
3. Increase in structural diversity of existing PFAS molecules: Introduction of e.g., hydrogens and chlorine atoms instead of fluorine, as well as branching and cross-linking lead to a high versatility of unknown target molecules.
4. Unknown "Dark Matter": The amount, identity, formation pathways, and transformation dynamics of polymers and PFAS precursors are largely unknown.
These directions require optimized analytical setups, especially multi-methods, and semi-specific tools to determine PFAS-sum parameters in any relevant matrix.