Before the persistent and toxicological properties of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) were known they were used worldwide. The thermal and chemical stability from the carbon-fluorine bond makes these substances desirable for industrial applications. One particular PFAS that have received much attention is perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) which is included in the Stockholm convention. Analyses have detected PFASs, especially the ones with longer carbon chain, in the environment, wildlife and humans so replacements are being searched for. This study investigates groundwater around a former hard chromium plating site, which is one of the registered exceptions where PFOS still is used. Five different located sampling points were collected and analyzed from this site in Iggesund, which is in the northern parts of Sweden. The substances analyzed for were thirteen perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs: C4-C14, C16 and C18), five perfluorinated sulfonic acids (PFSAs: C4, C6, C8 and C10) and 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate (6:2 FTS). The 6:2 telomer substances is being used as a replacement for similar compounds with longer carbon chains, but are believed to undergo biotransformation to persistent alkyl acids like perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) in the environment. Solid phase extraction was performed on 500 mL filtered groundwater with and the concentrated samples were analyzed on an Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC), tandem mass spectrometer. The glass microfiber filters used for filtrating the groundwater were analyzed for particle bound PFASs. Results from the water extraction analysis showed eight detected PFAS, with PFOS as the major contributor (72 - 9600 ng/L). The PFOS concentrations differs substantially between the five groundwater samples where the two sampling points located south of the facility, and closest to the actual hard chromium plating, were clearly higher than the other three. Two other substances detected in high concentration were perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBuS), 8-1550 ng/L, and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), 18-140 ng/L which can be produced as an impurity during the production of PFOS. PFCAs in all samples were detected in lower concentrations (1-25 ng/L).
Additional to the PFAS analysis, the groundwater was also measured for chromium since the carcinogenic hexavalent form is used in the chromic acid bath during hard chromium plating. In the same two samples that had the highest PFAS concentration, chromium was found in high concentration, 34900-44800 μg/L. These result indicates that the chromic acid baths is the source for the elevated concentrations found in the groundwater. If the facilities are left to deteriorate it will lead to continuously spreading of chromium and the highly water soluble PFASs downstream to Iggesundså which is of concern for the environment and water living organisms.