Science Inventory

Identification of Novel Perfluoroalkyl Ether Carboxylic Acids (PFECAs) and Sulfonic Acids (PFESAs) in Natural Waters Using Accurate Mass Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (TOFMS)


Strynar, M., S. Dagnino, R. McMahen, S. Liang, A. Lindstrom, E. Andersen, L. McMillian, M. Thurman, I. Ferrer, AND C. Ball. Identification of Novel Perfluoroalkyl Ether Carboxylic Acids (PFECAs) and Sulfonic Acids (PFESAs) in Natural Waters Using Accurate Mass Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (TOFMS). ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 49(19):11622-11630, (2015).


The National Exposure Research Laboratory’s (NERL’s) Human Exposure and Atmospheric Sciences Division (HEASD) conducts research in support of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. HEASD’s research program supports Goal 1 (Clean Air) and Goal 4 (Healthy People) of EPA’s strategic plan. More specifically, our division conducts research to characterize the movement of pollutants from the source to contact with humans. Our multidisciplinary research program produces Methods, Measurements, and Models to identify relationships between and characterize processes that link source emissions, environmental concentrations, human exposures, and target-tissue dose. The impact of these tools is improved regulatory programs and policies for EPA.


Recent scientific scrutiny and concerns over exposure, toxicity, and risk have led to international regulatory efforts resulting in the reduction or elimination of certain perfluorinated compounds from various products and waste streams. Some manufacturers have started producing shorter chain per- and polyfluorinated compounds to try to reduce the potential for bioaccumulation in humans and wildlife. Some of these new compounds contain central ether oxygens or other minor modifications of traditional perfluorinated structures. At present, there has been very limited information published on these “replacement chemistries” in the peer-reviewed literature. In this study we used a time-of-flight mass spectrometry detector (LC-ESI-TOFMS) to identify fluorinated compounds in natural waters collected from locations with historical perfluorinated compound contamination. Our workflow for discovery of chemicals included sequential sampling of surface water for identification of potential sources, nontargeted TOFMS analysis, molecular feature extraction (MFE) of samples, and evaluation of features unique to the sample with source inputs. Specifically, compounds were tentatively identified by (1) accurate mass determination of parent and/or related adducts and fragments from in-source collision-induced dissociation (CID), (2) in-depth evaluation of in-source adducts formed during analysis, and (3) confirmation with authentic standards when available. We observed groups of compounds in homologous series that differed by multiples of CF2 (m/z 49.9968) or CF2O (m/z 65.9917). Compounds in each series were chromatographically separated and had comparable fragments and adducts produced during analysis. We detected 12 novel perfluoroalkyl ether carboxylic and sulfonic acids in surface water in North Carolina, USA using this approach. A key piece of evidence was the discovery of accurate mass in-source n-mer formation (H+ and Na+) differing by m/z 21.9819, corresponding to the mass difference between the protonated and sodiated dimers.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 09/22/2015
Record Last Revised: 04/26/2016
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 312590