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Fields & Applications Environmental, Liquid Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry, Sensors

PFAS: A Threat to Life

The circle of PFAS 

More than 100 tons of PFAS is traveling to and from the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans every year, according to researchers from the US and Germany. The team used passive sampling systems that take up PFAS into a sorbent-filled microporous membrane from water as it flows past, which they then analyzed using UHPLC coupled to a quadrupole time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometer. According to the authors, the volume of PFAS traveling through the Fram Strait is larger than any pollutant reported.

PFAS(t) detection

Despite conventional PFAS analysis with LC-MS being effective, it can be costly and time-consuming – driving the need for more rapid and direct analytical approaches. So, scientists from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA, decided to study and optimize paper spray (PS)-based MS techniques for PFAS detection. They incorporated a triangular-shaped filter paper for sample loading and ionization – a feature useful to directly cut and analyze food packaging materials. They also tested desalting PS-MS – which integrates the desalting step with the ionization step for fast chemical analysis – and successfully identified PFAS in just three minutes. “Our method may also advance the study of airborne PFAS in a similar way to what we’ve demonstrated in this study, which would further help us address this widespread environmental issue.” revealed co-author Hao Chen in a press release

The prenatal PFAS price

Prenatal exposure to environmental contaminants impacts the cord serum metabolome and may contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases, according to a Örebro University study. The researchers used ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UHPLC-QTOFMS) to analyze cord serum samples from infants who later developed one or more autoimmune-mediated and inflammatory diseases, which they compared with matched controls. They found differences in exposure levels of deoxynivalenol (DON), bisphenol S (BPS), and specific per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) between the controls and those who later developed various diseases, and – “importantly,” wrote to the authors – “on the metabolic changes associated with the exposures.”

The forever problem

Continuing with concerns regarding the impact of PFAS on newborns, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health, USA, coupled a high-resolution orbitrap mass spectrometer to an ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography system to study the relation between thyroid hormone levels (crucial for normal growth and development) and PFAS concentrations after birth from dried blood spot samples. They found some “exploratory, potential relationships” between thyroid hormones and PFAS exposure. “These findings should be examined in a larger cohort with a broader range of thyroid hormone measurements to more thoroughly describe potential patterns of association,” concluded the authors in their pilot study.


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Also in the news…

PFAS were detected for the first time in unhatched eggs of the endangered turtle species Caretta caretta, following analysis with high resolution MS; the authors stress the need to monitor PFAS contamination in accordance to time trends. Link  

Diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) incorporating fluorinated graphite (FG) particles and coupled with LC-MS/MS successfully detect six PFAS in drinking water. Link

PFAS shown to have increased transfer efficiency from maternal blood to human milk the longer the lactation period is, according to analysis with UHPLC/MS. Link 

Despite claims, PFAS concentrations are not linked to enhanced depressive symptoms in a significant way, according to a recent analysis with LC-MS. Link 

Researchers use the Database Infrastructure for Mass Spectrometry (DIMSpec; an open-source toolkit supporting storage and sharing of high-resolution mass spectra with attached sample and methodological metadata) to create a database of curated mass spectra for PFAS. Link

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About the Author
Markella Loi

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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