Increasing Accumulation of Perfluorocarboxylate Contaminants Revealed in an Antarctic Firn Core (1958–2017)

Garnett, Jack and Halsall, Crispin and Winton, Holly and Joerss, Hanna and Mulvaney, Robert and Ebinghaus, Ralf and Frey, Markus and Jones, Anna and Leeson, Amber and Wynn, Peter (2022) Increasing Accumulation of Perfluorocarboxylate Contaminants Revealed in an Antarctic Firn Core (1958–2017). Environmental Science and Technology, 56 (16). 11246–11255. ISSN 0013-936X

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Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are synthetic chemicals with a variety of industrial and consumer applications that are now widely distributed in the global environment. Here, we report the measurement of six perfluorocarboxylates (PFCA, C4–C9) in a firn (granular compressed snow) core collected from a non-coastal, high-altitude site in Dronning Maud Land in Eastern Antarctica. Snow accumulation of the extracted core dated from 1958 to 2017, a period coinciding with the advent, use, and geographical shift in the global industrial production of poly/perfluoroalkylated substances, including PFAA. We observed increasing PFCA accumulation in snow over this time period, with chemical fluxes peaking in 2009–2013 for perfluorooctanoate (PFOA, C8) and nonanoate (PFNA, C9) with little evidence of a decline in these chemicals despite supposed recent global curtailments in their production. In contrast, the levels of perfluorobutanoate (PFBA, C4) increased markedly since 2000, with the highest fluxes in the uppermost snow layers. These findings are consistent with those previously made in the Arctic and can be attributed to chlorofluorocarbon replacements (e.g., hydrofluoroethers) as an inadvertent consequence of global regulation.

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Journal Article
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Environmental Science and Technology
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08 Aug 2022 10:20
Last Modified:
19 Oct 2023 23:52