There has been a string of news articles concerning polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water these days, and I must say, they have my attention. Here is the thing, when you think of drinking water in the US, crystal-clear lakes, rivers and groundwater along with effective water treatment might come to mind.
However, as safe as some water supplies appear to be, some communities have been dealing on the flip side. The residents of Flint, Michigan, for example, have been dealing with lead-filled pipes for far too long. The contamination in Flint was so bad that residents were provided with bottled drinking water as state officials decided who was responsible for replacing the affected water lines. And it is not just Flint that is suffering from poor water quality; there are many other communities in the US are also affected by contaminated water.
The dangers of PFAS contamination
A recent article I was reading describes the discovery of chemicals including per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in soil and groundwater in Whidbey Island was described. These chemicals are widely used in a variety of consumer products such as firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, waterproof fabrics, and food packaging. The problem with PFAS even at very low concentrations (in parts per trillion) has been linked to an increased incidence of cancer, obesity, endocrine system disruption and other adverse health effects. In the case of Whidbey Island, these chemicals have managed to find their way into private drinking-water wells, sickening residents.
Although the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate private wells, lab tests in Whidbey turned up levels 35 times more than the allowable drinking water standards. On a broader scale, a separate report based on aHarvard study estimated that as many as 6 million Americans overall might be affected by PFAS-contaminated water, even though the EPAdeveloped a global stewardship program in 2015 to phase out PFAS from emissions and products. As a scientist and, more importantly, as a human being — I wonder, along with my SCIEX partners and clients, what more can we do to trace harmful chemicals such as PFAS at low levels, so we can help keep the public safe?
Effective PFAS testing can help
If you are a fellow scientist who wishes to get involved with PFAS testing, download the PFAS and GenX info kit to access content that can help. This info kit includes two methods for the quantification of PFAS in water samples.
I invite you to discover the advantages of each method, including each method’s compatibility with the guidelines outlined in EPA Method 537 and EPA Method 537.1. You will also learn about the ever-important sample preparation strategies used in each method. This is important because while the use of the SCIEX Triple Quad™ 5500 LC-MS/MS System for MS/MS detection is similar between the two methods, the sample preparation and injection volumes differ significantly.
As the list of PFAS continues to grow, so does the need for effective PFAS analysis of environmental samples. These versatile methods will be useful for labs tasked with meeting this need.
About the author
Philip Taylor has more than 10 years of experience with mass spectrometry. He is currently a Senior Global Marketing Manager at SCIEX and focuses on strategic marketing initiatives to drive applied markets, including food, environmental and forensic LC-MS/MS solutions.