Increasing Accumulation of Perfluorocarboxylate Contaminants Revealed in an Antarctic Firn Core (1958–2017)

Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are synthetic chemicals with a variety of industrial and consumer applications that are now widely distributed in the global environment. Here, we report the measurement of six perfluorocarboxylates (PFCA, C4–C9) in a firn (granular compressed snow) core collected from a non-coastal, high-altitude site in Dronning Maud Land in Eastern Antarctica. Snow accumulation of the extracted core dated from 1958 to 2017, a period coinciding with the advent, use, and geographical shift in the global industrial production of poly/perfluoroalkylated substances, including PFAA. We observed increasing PFCA accumulation in snow over this time period, with chemical fluxes peaking in 2009–2013 for perfluorooctanoate (PFOA, C8) and nonanoate (PFNA, C9) with little evidence of a decline in these chemicals despite supposed recent global curtailments in their production. In contrast, the levels of perfluorobutanoate (PFBA, C4) increased markedly since 2000, with the highest fluxes in the uppermost snow layers. These findings are consistent with those previously made in the Arctic and can be attributed to chlorofluorocarbon replacements (e.g., hydrofluoroethers) as an inadvertent consequence of global regulation.


Publication status:
Authors: Garnett, Jack, Halsall, Crispin, Winton, Holly ORCIDORCID record for Holly Winton, Joerss, Hanna, Mulvaney, Robert ORCIDORCID record for Robert Mulvaney, Ebinghaus, Ralf, Frey, Markus ORCIDORCID record for Markus Frey, Jones, Anna ORCIDORCID record for Anna Jones, Leeson, Amber, Wynn, Peter

On this site: Anna Jones, Markus Frey, Robert Mulvaney, Holly Winton
26 July, 2022
Environmental Science & Technology / 56
10pp / 11246-11255
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