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Per- and Poly- fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that have been widely used in industry since the 1950s. PFAS include chemicals such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFAS have been used in the manufacture of non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications, food packaging, some industrial processes and in some types of fire-fighting foam. Many PFAS can persist in humans, animals and the environment. Although there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects, experts recommend that exposure to PFAS is minimised as a precaution. Robust, high quality routine testing of common PFAS contaminants will be essential in minimising the risks of exposure.

NMI's response

The National Measurement Institute (NMI) is Australia's peak measurement body responsible for biological, chemical, legal, physical and trade measurement. Among its broad range of commercial scientific services, NMI offers NATA accredited analytical testing services for a comprehensive range of PFAS chemicals.

NMI capabilities include:

  • advanced LC-MS/MS instrumentation for PFAS analysis and research
  • NATA accreditation for testing common PFAS in soil and water matrices
  • highly skilled and experienced staff committed to providing quality results
  • rapid turnaround times.

In 2015, NMI partnered with Environment Protection Authority Victoria and the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment to develop Australia's first PFAS proficiency testing capability. NMI has ISO 17043 accreditation for an ongoing international proficiency testing program of PFAS in soil, water and biota. The NMI also regularly participates in other international proficiency testing thereby benchmarking our analytical performance in testing at ultra-trace levels. Our staff collaborate in research projects with prominent universities and other research institutes to ensure that their expertise and knowledge are maintained at the highest level.

Collapsed - Table 1: NMI's NATA accredited testing services and their respective LORs

Analyte Name Abbreviation *Water 
(μg/L) 
Soil
(mg/kg)
**Biota
(mg/kg)
Biosolids
(mg/kg)

Perfluorobutanoic acid

PFBA

0.05

0.002

0.001

0.01

Perfluoropentanoic acid

PFPeA

0.02

0.002

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorohexanoic acid

PFHxA

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

Perfluoroheptanoic acid

PFHpA

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorooctanoic acid

PFOA

0.01

0.001

0.0003

0.005

Perfluorononanoic acid

PFNA

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorodecanoic acid

PFDA

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

Perfluoroundecanoic acid

PFUnDA

0.01

0.002

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorododecanoic acid

PFDoDA

0.01

0.002

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorotridecanoic acid

PFTrDA

0.02

0.002

-

0.005

Perfluorotetradecanoic acid

PFTeDA

0.02

0.002

-

0.005

Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid

PFBS

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid

PFHxS

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid

PFOS

0.02

0.002

0.0003

0.005

Perfluorodecane sulfonic acid

PFDS

0.01

0.001

-

0.005

6:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonic acid

6:2 FTS

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

8:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonic acid

8:2 FTS

0.01

0.001

0.0005

0.005

Perfluorooctane sulfonamide

PFOSA

0.01

0.001

-

0.005
# Perfluorohexadecanoic acid PFHxDA 0.02 0.002 - 0.005
# Perfluorooctadecanoic acid PFODA 0.05 0.005 - 0.02
# 2H-Perfluoro-2-decenoic acid(8:2) FOUEA 0.01 0.001 - 0.005
# Perfluoropentane sulfonic acid PFPeS 0.01 0.001 - 0.005
# Perfluoroheptane sulfonic acid PFHpS 0.01 0.001 - 0.005
# Perfluorononanesulfonic acid PFNS 0.01 0.001 - 0.005
# N-Methyl perfluorooctane sulfonamide N-MeFOSA 0.02 0.002 - 0.005
# N-Ethyl perfluorooctane sulfonamide N-EtFOSA 0.02 0.002 - 0.005
# N-Methyl perfluorooctane sulfonamidoacetic acid N-MeFOSAA 0.01 0.002 - 0.005
# N-Ethyl perfluorooctane sulfonamidoacetic acid N-EtFOSAA 0.01 0.002 - 0.005
# N-Methyl perfluorooctane sulfonamidoethanol N-MeFOSE 0.05 0.005 - 0.01
# N-Ethyl perfluorooctane sulfonamidoethanol N-EtFOSE 0.05 0.005 - 0.01
# 4:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonic acid 4:2 FTS 0.01 0.001 - 0.005
# 10:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonic acid 10:2 FTS 0.01 0.002 - 0.01
# 8:2 polyfluoroalkyl phosphate diester 8:2 diPAP 0.02 0.002 - 0.01

Key

#New PFAS analytes with LORs for water, soil and biosolids
* For lower project specific LOR’s, please contact NMI
**The NMI is currently pursuing NATA accreditation for PFAS analysis for biota.
- Not reported for biota samples.

Method

For PFAS testing, the NMI methodology is based on USEPA 537 and USEPA Draft Method 821-R-11-007 utilising solid phase extraction (for water) and LC-MSMS detection. This method is NATA accredited for biosolids, soil and water samples. NMI closely follows the QSM 5.1-Quality Control Requirements for PFAS Analyses.

See our factsheetQSM 5.1 – Quality Control Requirements for PFAS Analyses.

Reporting

PFAS can consist of linear and branched isomers. The NMI’s preference is to quantify all isomers using traceable linear standards and report as ‘totals’, as listed in Table 1.

Sampling, storage and transportation

As sampling, storage and transportation are critical for analysis, NMI clients should refer to appropriate sampling guidelines for PFAS analysis where possible. In summary, samples should be collected with care, and contact with glass and Teflon (PTFE) should be avoided at all times. NMI provides 2 x 60 ml HDPE bottles for water samples, and 1 x 250 ml HDPE jars for soil and biota samples. If water samples are suspected to have been chlorinated, please contact the NMI for further instructions. All other samples are unpreserved but need to be chilled with ice bricks. Biota samples should be frozen prior to transportation. Samples should be transported in eskies with ice bricks as soon as possible and preferably within 1 day of sampling.

Please note that the above information only refers to NMI's PFAS testing for biota and environmental samples. Lower water LORs are available based on larger sample volume, but are not NATA accredited.  

For more information, please contact NMI or refer toRecommended Environmental Sample Preservation and Holding Times.

For more information

Phone: 1300 722 845
Email: customerservice@measurement.gov.au