Guest Blog: Dr Vipul Gupta on the emergence of PFAS

October 12, 2021
Sam Findlay

ACES Affiliate Dr Vipul Gupta from our University of Tasmania (UTAS) node joins us for our latest guest blog to sheds some light on the findings and emergence of PFAS, as recently published in the ACS journal of Analytical Chemistry.


Dr Vipul Gupta.


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) have recently emerged as one of the most extensively distributed man-made contaminants, which generally originate from various household products such as food packaging, non-stick Teflon coatings, paints, laundry detergents, fire extinguisher foams and more. These substances have been recently classified as highly hazardous because of their potentially toxic and carcinogenic nature and limited biodegradability. What’s more, their detection within almost every environmental media, including water, biota, and soil, has caused considerable concern.


2021 American Chemical Society


PFAS contamination in soil has emerged as one of the major concerns because contaminated soil acts as one of the long-term reservoirs of PFASs and leads to their prolonged exposure through leaching, agriculture, and other human activities. Accordingly, several environmental monitoring agencies have recently established strict limitations around PFAS contamination in soil, requiring regular analysis and record keeping. However, PFAS detection in soils has proved to be quite challenging in the past, primarily because of the existence of a wide variety of PFASs and their isomers (industries have already reported the use of more than 4000 types of PFASs) and due to the complex matrix of the soil.


ASTech and ACES researchers, led by Prof Brett Paull from the University of Tasmania, have recently developed a portable and lightweight capillary liquid chromatography (capLC) system coupled with a small footprint portable mass spectrometer (MS), which presents the first practical demonstration of a field-deployable LC/MS analysis system.


The system is designed for rugged operations even under harsh field-based applications, and it offers an ideal footprint to be carried in a small vehicle for rapid on-site analysis. The in-field portable system was benchmarked against a commercial lab-based LC−tandem MS (MS/MS) system for the analysis of PFASs in real soil samples, and the results showed good agreement between them. Hence, the developed system was used in the field to quantify different PFASs in soil samples, and it offered high precision and accuracy with a detection limit of as low as 0.1 ng/g. It was used to analyse more than 35 soil samples collected from different strategic locations across Australia, which showed the presence of both perfluorinated carboxylic acid (PFCA) and perfluoroalkyl sulfonate (PFSA) category compounds in several soil samples.


For more on this work, Access the paper and results here.


Written by Dr Vipul Gupta

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