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Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Sep 1;43(17):6617-23.

Degradability of an acrylate-linked, fluorotelomer polymer in soil.

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  • 1National Exposure Research Laboratory, USEPA, 960 College Station Road, Athens, Georgia 30605, USA.


Fluorotelomer polymers are used in a broad array of products in modern societies worldwide and, if they degrade at significant rates, potentially are a significant source of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and related compounds to the environment To evaluate this possibility, we incubated an acrylate-linked fluorotelomer polymer in soil microcosms and monitored the microcosms for possible fluorotelomer (FT) and perfluorinated-compound (PFC) degradation products using GC/MS and LC/MS/MS. This polymer scavenged FTs and PFCs aggressively necessitating development of a multistep extraction using two solvents. Aged microcosms accumulated more FTs and PFCs than were present in the fresh polymer indicating polymer degradation with a half-life of about 870-1400 years for our coarse-grained test polymer. Modeling indicates that more-finely grained polymers in soils might have half-lives of about 10-17 years assuming degradation is surface-mediated. In our polymer-soil microcosms, PFOA evidently was lost with a half-life as short as 130 days, possibly by polymer-catalyzed degradation. These results suggest that fluoratelomer-polymer degradation is a significant source of PFOA and other fluorinated compounds to the environment.

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