Perfluorinated Compounds – Key Terms You Should Know

News stories involving perfluorinated compounds have become more dominant over the past several years. They certainly seem to be noteworthy articles; however, if you’re like me, you feel like they’re drinking from a metaphorical firehose when trying to learn the relevant terminology.

In this 2-part blog series, I’ll set the scene for a discussion on perfluorinated compounds, along with some helpful resources for additional information.  In this first part, I’ll define some of the perfluorinated compounds that are more commonly referred to in discussion and in the news.

The second part of the series will use some of the newly defined terminology to examine the occurrence and usage of these compounds.

AcronymFull Analyte NameCommon Uses
PFAAPerfluorinated alkyl acidRepresents a class of fluorinated compounds containing an active terminal group (such as a carboxylate,sulfonate, etc); usage is dependent on the specific functional group added
PFOAPerfluorooctanoic acidFire-fighting foam, water- and oil-repellent coatings; also used for synthesizing PTFE (refer to PTFE definition below)
PFOSPerfluorooctanesulfonic acidFabric protector, fire-fighting foam, anti-reflective coating, primer in paints/varnishes
PFBSPerfluorobutanesulfonic acidFabric protector
PFCAPerfluoroalkyl carboxylic acidPersonal care products; used for synthesizing PFTE (refer to PTFE definition below)
PFCsPerfluoroalkyl compoundsRepresents a class of fluorinated compounds containing only C-F and C-C bonds (no C-H bonds); usage is dependent on the specific functional group added
PTFEPolytetrafluoroethyleneNon-stick coating for cookware, fabric protectors (also known as Teflon®)
PFNAPerfluorononanoic acidUsed for synthesizing PVDF (low density plastics)

The table above lists just a few of the perfluorinated compounds that appear in much of the research and published literature today. Many more classes of perfluorinated compounds exist, including: fluorochloroalkenes, perfluoroethers, perfluoroalcohols, perfluoroamines, perfluoroketones, perfluoronitriles, perfluorinated aryl borates, perfluorosunflower (just kidding about that last one).

Additional perfluorinated compounds, such as perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) , are generated when PFAA-containing products break down. The U.S. EPA monitors the potential health effects of a wide range of perfluorinated compounds; however, for the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on the compounds listed in the table above.

Stay tuned for the second part in the series. If you have any additional compounds you would like to see further explained, feel free to add them to the comments section.

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