PFASs are a broad group of man-made chemicals that have been used in a wide variety of products and applications due to their water repellent and non-stick properties. In the UK they rose to the public’s attention in the aftermath of the 2005 Buncefield oil disaster where PFOS was used as a key surfactant in hundreds of tons of firefighting foam used to bring the oil blaze under control.
PFOS and PFOA were subsequently found to be present in the main aquifer below the site and further monitoring showed its presence in numerous water sources throughout the country.
Our Bedford laboratory was the first laboratory in the UK to gain UKAS accreditation for the analysis of PFOS, PFOA and a range of other related compounds and was instrumental in providing analytical support during the extensive Buncefield remediation and clean-up phase and following routine monitoring.
In 2009, PFOS was added to Annex B of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants resulting in measures being taken to restrict its production and use with further restriction proposed for PFAS substances containing C7 or C8 perfluorocarbon chains. In 2013 PFOS and its derivatives were added to Annex I of the Priority Hazardous Directive (2013/39/EC) and the EU surface water annual average environmental quality standard (AA-EQS) was set to 0.65ng/L and applied in 2018.
RPS provides ISO 17025 accredited analysis of both PFOS and PFOA in line with the EU AA-EQS targets and achieves limits of detection for both substances in water down to 0.09ng/L. This is roughly equivalent to a one small drop of PFOS in 44 Olympic size swimming pools.
Analysis can also be provided for soil, sediment, waste water, food and animal tissues.
The Environment Agency in the UK has published Soil Screening Values of 0.014 mg/Kg (dry weight) and the UK drinking water guidance (2009) produced by the DWI places a trigger value of 0.3ug/L on PFOS and PFOA above which consultation and monitoring must be undertaken, however this is much higher that the limits imposed by the other European countries such as Scandinavia, Denmark and Sweden which range between 0.1 and 0.09ug/L for a range of 11-12 PFASs and in the US limits have been set well below this with values as low as 10ng/L for PFOS and PFOA in New York with long term targets set to fall even lower.
As shorter chain PFASs (<C7) are known to be less retained by granulated activated carbon treatment systems, RPS has been providing analytical support in order to monitor a wide range of PFASs, this has helped our clients to evaluate their treatment options and understand the risks posed by other currently unregulated substances.
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