Poly- and perFluor Alkyl Substances

The poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic substances made in the chemical industry for various applications. There are more than 4,700 registered substances that fall under this category. The substances are used in various products, such as lubricants, food packaging,, non-stick coatings of pans (Teflon), clothing, textiles, and cosmetics.

In addition to the positive properties that these substances have in or on our daily lives, they also have drawbacks. These substances can have a negative effect on the environment and our health, and therefore pose a threat to the quality of surface and groundwaters and (in)directly to our drinking water and food supply.

Various literature has shown that these substances are persistent, mobile and toxic to human and animal health. In the Netherlands, there are currently three substances of special interest, perfluorooctane sulfanic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and HFPO-DA (GenX).

The RIVM has labeled a number of these substances as substances of very high concern. Therefore, a provisional drinking water guideline value of 150 ng/l has been drawn for GenX compounds in water (RIVM/VSP 2017). In determining the drinking water guideline, RIVM investigated the daily tolerable intake of the substances for lifelong intake via drinking water, or air. At a concentration of 150 nanograms per liter of drinking water, no negative effects on health are expected. For the environment, a provisional environmental quality standard of 118 ng/L has been set for GenX (IenW 2018). In European drinking water legislation, for other PFAS a sum of 500 ng/L is set.

Het Waterlaboratorium has developed a new method for 13 perfluorinated compounds based on liquid chromatography in combination with mass spectrometry detection (LC-MS/MS), including the abovementioned substances. The analysis uses direct injection, which means that the sample is introduced directly into the system for analysis without any pre-treatment. With this analysis, Het Waterlaboratoirum has a unique PFAS method. This method could only be realized because Het Waterlaboratorium currently has one of the most sensitive tandem mass spectrometry systems available.

In addition to chemical analysis, Het Waterlaboratorium conducts biological research on PFAS with biological test systems (bioassays).