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Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Feb 15;36(4):545-51.

Monitoring perfluorinated surfactants in biota and surface water samples following an accidental release of fire-fighting foam into Etobicoke Creek.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Perfluorinated surfactants have emerged as priority environmental contaminants due to recent reports of their detection in environmental and biological matrices as well as concerns regarding their persistence and toxicity. In June 2000, 22000 L of fire retardant foam containing perfluorinated surfactants was accidentally released at L. B. Pearson International Airport, Toronto, ON, and subsequently entered into Etobicoke Creek, a tributary to Lake Ontario. A suite of analytical tools that include liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) and 19F NMR were employed to characterize fish (common shiner, Notropus cornutus) and surface water samples collected following the discharge of the perfluorinated material. Total perfluoroalkanesulfonate (4, 6, and 8 carbons) concentrations in fish liver samples ranged from 2.00 to 72.9 microg/g, and total perfluorocarboxylate (5-14 carbons) concentrations ranged from 0.07 to 1.02 microg/g. In addition to fish samples, total perfluoroalkanesulfonate (6 and 8 carbons) concentrations were detected in creek water samples by LC/MS/MS over a 153 day sampling period with concentrations ranging from <0.017 to 2260 microg/L; perfluorooctanoate concentrations (<0.009-11.3 microg/L) were lower than those observed for the perfluoroalkane-sulfonates. By 19F NMR, the total perfluorinated surfactant concentrations in surface water samples ranged from < 10 to 17000 microg/L. A bioaccumulation factor range of 6300-125000 was calculated for perfluorooctanesulfonate, based on concentrations in fish liver and surface water. The residence time of perfluorooctanesulfonate in Etobicoke Creek as well as the high bioaccumulation in fish liver suggests that perfluorinated surfactants will persist and bioaccumulate following release into the aquatic environment.

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