Extracting Perfluorinated Compounds from Drinking Water – Why is it so Challenging?

For the past few years, news reporters have used words like “developing” and “emerging” and “crisis” to describe perfluorinated compounds. When you see adjectives like this, you can’t help but think “how did we not know about these PFC things before now?”

The truth is, these compounds have been produced for decades – some, for over half a century – and their chemical and physical properties are well-known. The strength of the carbon-fluorine bond in these compounds makes them heat-, water- and stain-resistant.

“PFAS are stable, persistent and bioaccumulative.”
-NH Department of Environmental Services

The use of the word “emerging” indicates that new information is developing about the risk these compounds pose to our health. As we monitor, track and quantify various PFC compounds, we are increasing our understanding of how persistent these compounds are and how that persistence has contributed to their prevalence in drinking water sources around the nation.

The U.S. EPA developed a method for extracting and quantifying perfluorinated compounds in drinking water. Known as Method 537, this is THE method for measuring PFCs in water. It is specific to drinking water and contains an analyte list with 14 PFC compounds. Although it was a carefully developed method, it’s not without limitations. The biggest limitation to this method is that it’s prescriptive for 14 PFCs in drinking water. It is NOT a reference method to give you a protocol to follow for any PFC that you want to extract in any water matrix.

So, what if you’re trying to quantify a PFC compound that isn’t included in Method 537, in a sample matrix like non-potable groundwater, soil, sediment or wastewater?

As laboratories seek answers to the limitations of Method 537, modifications have been explored and tested. The current modifications are being referred to as “Modified Method 537” which, as the name implies, are designed to support the extraction and quantification of up to 24 perfluorinated compounds in a wider range of sample matrices. Unfortunately, adding compounds to the analyte list and complexity to the sample matrix components increases the challenges in meeting the performance requirements of the method.

Seeking guidance in meeting the challenges of Method 537 and navigating potential pitfalls? Check out this helpful webinar on Extracting Perfluorinated Compounds in Drinking and Wastewaters.

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