Which of the (Mixed) Halogenated n-Alkanes Are Likely To Be Persistent Organic Pollutants? Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Short-chain polychlorinated n-alkanes are ubiquitous industrial chemicals widely recognized as persistent organic pollutants. They represent only a small fraction of the 184,600 elemental compositions (C10-25) and the myriad isomers of all possible (mixed) halogenated n-alkanes (PXAs). This study prioritizes the PXAs on the basis of their potential to persist, bioaccumulate, and undergo long-range transport guided by quantitative structure-property relationships (QSPRs), density functional theory (DFT), chemical fate models, and partitioning space. The QSPR results narrow the list to 966 elemental compositions, of which 352 (23 Br, 83 Cl/F, 119 Br/Cl, and 127 Br/F) are likely constituents of substances used as lubricants, plasticizers, and flame retardants. Complementary DFT calculations suggest that an additional 1367 elemental compositions characterized by a greater number of carbon and fluorine atoms but fewer chlorine and bromine atoms may also pose a risk. The results of this study underline the urgent need to identify and monitor these suspected pollutants, most appropriately using mass spectrometry. We estimate that the resolving power required to distinguish ∼74% of the prioritized elemental compositions from the most likely interferents, i.e., chlorinated alkanes, is approximately 60,000 (full width at half-maximum). This indicates that accurate identification of the PXAs is achievable using most high-resolution mass spectrometers.


  • Li, Xiaolei
  • Chevez, Tannia
  • De Silva, Amila O
  • Muir, Derek CG
  • Kleywegt, Sonya
  • Simpson, Andre
  • Simpson, Myrna J
  • Jobst, Karl

publication date

  • December 7, 2021