Safety and Environmental Technology Group

 Sources and Fate of Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Claudia E. Müller, Matthew MacLeod, Martin Scheringer, Konrad Hungerbühler


Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used in a broad spectrum of products and processes. Due to their unique properties such as extreme stability and surface activity, they are ideal for coatings of paper, textiles, upholstery as well as reaction additivesin various processed. At the same time, these properties have lead to the global distribution in the environment including humans. This thesis has the goal to investigate the sources and transport mechanism of various PFAS in the Swiss environment in field studies using sensitive analytical techniques including liquid and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (LC-MS and GC-MS).

The first project will focus on the distribution of PFAS in Swiss surface waters and the major water contamination sources and possible local hot-spots. Concentration distributions within Switzerland, between urban, rural and remote areas will be examined to assess transport mechanisms. Measurements of air and water samples from remote areas will have the aim to elucidate if atmospheric transport is an important mechanism of distributing PFAS in Switzerland. Investigation of water streams will focus more on the impact of municipal and industrial discharges.

A second project will focus on emission processes from consumer materials that contain PFAS as additive or residues. The goal is to see if these processes are relevant for human exposure and to what extent consumer products are treated with perfluorinated chemicals. An emission test chamber with online detection will be developed to monitor the processes.


Perfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS, environmental analysis, transport mechanisms.


The work is based on publications of

Prevedouros, K.; Cousins, I. T.; Buck, R. C.; Korzeniowski, S. H., Sources, fate and transport of perfluorocarboxylates. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2006, 40, (1), 32-44.

Giesy, J. P.; Kannan, K., Perfluorochemical surfactants in the environment. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2002, 36, (7), 146A-152A.

Stock, N. L.; Lau, F. K.; Ellis, D. A.; Martin, J. W.; Muir, D. C. G.; Mabury, S. A., Polyfluorinated Telomer Alcohols and Sulfonamides in the North American Troposphere. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2004, 38, (4), 991-996.


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