Heterogeneous Photooxidation of Fluorotelomer Alcohols: A New Source of Aerosol-Phase Perfluorinated Carboxylic Acids
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Little is known of the atmospheric fate(s) of fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs), a class of high-production-volume chemicals used in the production of water- and oil-repelling surface coatings and which have been detected in a wide variety of urban and remote environmental matrices. In the present study, we investigated the uptake and photochemistry of FTOHs at the surface of TiO2, Fe2O3, Mauritanian sand, and Icelandic volcanic ash. Gas-phase 3,3,3-trifluoropropanol, 4:2 FTOH, and 6:2 FTOH exhibited significant uptake to each of the surfaces under study. The sand- and ash-catalyzed heterogeneous photooxidation of 6:2 FTOH resulted in the rapid production and subsequent slow degradation of surface-sorbed perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs). We suggest that this transformation, which proceeds via saturated and unsaturated fluorotelomer carboxylic acid intermediates (6:2 FTCA/FTUCA), is catalyzed by Fe and Ti contained within the samples. These results provide the first evidence that the heterogeneous oxidation of FTOHs at metal-rich atmospheric surfaces may provide a significant loss mechanism for these chemicals and also act as a source of aerosol-phase PFCAs close to source regions. Subsequent long-range transport of these aerosol-sorbed PFCAs has the potential to join oceanic transport and local gas-phase FTOH oxidation as a source of PFCAs to Arctic regions.
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