Exploring the fate, transport and risk of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) in a coastal region of China using a multimedia model

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Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and related substances have been widely applied in both industrial processes and domestic products in China. Exploring the environmental fate and transport of PFOS using modeling methods provides an important link between emission and multimedia diffusion which forms a vital part in the human health risk assessment and chemical management for these substances. In this study, the gridded fugacity based BETR model was modified to make it more suitable to model transfer processes of PFOS in a coastal region, including changes to PFOS partition coefficients to reflect the influence of water salinity on its sorption behavior. The fate and transport of PFOS in the Bohai coastal region of China were simulated under steady state with the modified version of the model. Spatially distributed emissions of PFOS and related substances in 2010 were estimated and used in these simulations. Four different emission scenarios were investigated, in which a range of half-lives for PFOS related substances were considered. Concentrations of PFOS in air, vegetation, soil, fresh water, fresh water sediment and coastal water were derived from the model under the steady-state assumption. The median modeled PFOS concentrations in fresh water, fresh water sediment and soil were 7.20. ng/L, 0.39. ng/g and 0.21. ng/g, respectively, under Emission Scenario 2 (which assumed all PFOS related substances immediately degrade to PFOS) for the whole region, while the maximum concentrations were 47.10. ng/L, 4.98. ng/g and 2.49. ng/g, respectively. Measured concentration data for PFOS in the Bohai coastal region around the year of 2010 were collected from the literature. The reliability of the model results was evaluated by comparing the range of modeled concentrations with the measured data, which generally matched well for the main compartments. Fate and transfer fluxes were derived from the model based on the calculated inventory within the compartments, transfer fluxes between compartments and advection fluxes between sub-regions. It showed that soil and costal water were likely to be the most important sinks of PFOS in the Bohai costal region, in which more than 90% of PFOS was stored. Flows of fresh water were the driving force for spatial transport of PFOS in this region. Influences of the seasonal change of fresh water fluxes on the model results were also analyzed. When only seasonal changes of the fresh water flow rates were considered, concentrations of PFOS in winter and spring were predicted to be higher than that under annual average conditions, while the concentrations in summer and autumn were lower. For PFOS fluxes entering the sea, opposite conclusions were drawn compared to the concentrations. Environmental risks from the presence of PFOS in fresh water were assessed for this region through comparison with available water quality criteria values. The predicted concentrations of PFOS in the Bohai coastal region provided by the model were lower than the water quality criteria published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Chinese researchers, while the concentrations in more than 80% of the sampling locations exceeded the European Union Water Framework Directive Environmental Quality Standards values. Seasonal variations of flow rate might cause a significant increase in environmental risks.




Liu, S., Lu, Y., Xie, S., Wang, T., Jones, K. C., & Sweetman, A. J. (2015). Exploring the fate, transport and risk of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) in a coastal region of China using a multimedia model. Environment International, 85, 15–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2015.08.007

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