Nontargeted screening reveals fluorotelomer ethoxylates in indoor dust and industrial wastewater
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Concerns regarding the persistence, bioaccumulation behaviour, and toxicity of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid have resulted in the creation of thousands of replacement perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This study reports on the discovery of fluorotelomer ethoxylates (FTEO) in indoor dust (9/15 samples), and industrial effluents (14/37 samples) using gas chromatographic cyclic ion mobility mass spectrometry (GC-cIMS). By filtering the detected unknowns by mass and collision-cross section, a series of FTEO homologues were revealed with the formula F-(CF2)n(C2H4O)xH, where n = 6,8,10, and x = 4-12. The highest concentrations were observed in samples collected from healthcare facilities, consistent with the potential use of these compounds in anti-fog products, sprays used to prevent condensation on eyeglasses. FTEOs were also detected in c. 40 % of industrial effluent samples, with the highest concentrations in electroplating facilities, manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products, and linen cleaning services for healthcare and work uniforms. These results suggest that FTEOs may well be widespread pollutants that are more persistent than previously thought, underlining the need for further study of their occurrence and potential impact to human health and the environment.
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