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Environ Int. 2013 Sep;59:183-200. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.05.008. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

Perfluoroalkyl acids in the Canadian environment: multi-media assessment of current status and trends.

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Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, 651 Colby Drive, Waterloo, ON, N2V 1C2, Canada.


In Canada, perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) have been the focus of several monitoring programs and research and surveillance studies. Here, we integrate recent data and perform a multi-media assessment to examine the current status and ongoing trends of PFAAs in Canada. Concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), and other long-chain perfluorocarboxylates (PFCAs) in air, water, sediment, fish, and birds across Canada are generally related to urbanization, with elevated concentrations observed around cities, especially in southern Ontario. PFOS levels in water, fish tissue, and bird eggs were below their respective Draft Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines, suggesting there is low potential for adverse effects to the environment/organisms examined. However, PFOS in fish and bird eggs tended to exceed guidelines for the protection of mammalian and avian consumers, suggesting a potential risk to their wildlife predators, although wildlife population health assessments are needed to determine whether negative impacts are actually occurring. Long-term temporal trends of PFOS in suspended sediment, sediment cores, Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), and Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) eggs collected from Lake Ontario increased consistently from the start of data collection until the 1990s. However, after this time, the trends varied by media, with concentrations stabilizing in Lake Trout and Herring Gull eggs, and decreasing and increasing in suspended sediment and the sediment cores, respectively. For PFCAs, concentrations in suspended sediment, sediment cores, and Herring Gulls generally increased from the start of data collection until present and concentrations in Lake Trout increased until the late 1990s and subsequently stabilized. A multimedia comparison of PFAA profiles provided evidence that unexpected patterns in biota of some of the lakes were due to unique source patterns rather than internal lake processes. High concentrations of PFAAs in the leachate and air of landfill sites, in the wastewater influent/effluent, biosolids, and air at wastewater treatment plants, and in indoor air and dust highlight the waste sector and current-use products (used primarily indoors) as ongoing sources of PFAAs to the Canadian environment. The results of this study demonstrate the utility of integrating data from different media. Simultaneous evaluation of spatial and temporal trends in multiple media allows inferences that would be impossible with data on only one medium. As such, more co-ordination among monitoring sites for different media is suggested for future sampling, especially at the northern sites. We emphasize the importance of continued monitoring of multiple-media for determining future responses of environmental PFAA concentrations to voluntary and regulatory actions.


Canada; Federal environmental quality guidelines; Multi-media analysis; Perfluoroalkyl acids; Potential sources; Trends

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