Release of Volatile Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances from Aqueous Film-Forming Foam
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Use of aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs) to extinguish hydrocarbon fires tends to contaminate water and soil with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) near application sites.

However, gas-phase PFAS release from AFFF has not been well examined. We investigated the presence of volatile PFASs in the headspace above agitated AFFF concentrate produced within the last two years using two analytical techniques. One method utilized polyurethane foam and XAD resin with liquid chromatography mass spectrometry to quantify 30 PFASs, and is similar to methods used by others to measure PFASs in air. A second, more exploratory approach used a thermal desorption sampler and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to measure 22 PFASs. 16 PFASs were detected in the headspace including 5 fluorotelomer alcohols (1.1 to 38.1 µg/m3), 10 perfluorinated carboxylic acids (1.2 to 13,668 µg/m3) and 1 fluorotelomer sulfonate (72.1 µg/m3). The most abundant PFAS detected in the headspace was perfluorooctanoic acid (13,668 µg/m3), although it was only detected by GC-MS. An additional five fully fluorinated, iodinated, and ethenyl fluorocarbons were identified but not quantified. It is likely that firefighters are exposed to these compounds, but the risk is not yet known.

Publication Summary

  • Geosyntec Authors: Chase Holton
  • All Authors: Chase Holton, Geosyntec Consultants; Julia Roth, Ibrahim Abusallout, Tiffany Hill, Utsav Thapa, David Hanigan
  • Title: Environmental Science & Technology Letters
  • Event or Publication: Publication
  • Practice Areas: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
  • Citation: Chase Holton, Ph.D., P.E. (Colorado) coauthored a paper entitled "Release of Volatile Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances from Aqueous Film-Forming Foam" that was published in the Environmental Science & Technology Letters on February 20, 2020.
  • Date: February 20, 2020
  • Publication Type: Journal Article