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Perfluorinated compounds
Polyfluorinated compounds have been used since the 1950s in industrial applications and consumer products, including protective coatings (for paper, carpets, textiles and leathers), lubricants, paints, cosmetics, surfactants and fire-fighting foams. Perfluorinated alkyl acids such as the perfluorocarboxylic acids and perfluorosulfonic acids (where the carbon chain length can be typically 3 to 12 carbons) are the best known examples of these substances as they are ubiquitous
in the global environment, wildlife and humans. The persistence, bioaccumulation potential and toxicity of long-chain perfluorinated alkyl acids has led to scrutiny and some action by industry and regulators. For example, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) has been listed in Annex B of the Stockholm Convention, whereas industry have implemented measures to restrict environmental discharges and replace existing products.  

Research on perfluorinated compounds is particularly important in Nordic countries, which act as bridge between industrialized areas and pristine (e.g. Arctic) environments that need to be protected. The fact that large quantities of PFCs are being conveyed into pristine environments by unknown mechanisms is unacceptable and Nordic countries need to foster competence in this field to know how best to protect the environment.

It is imperative that we better understand the fate and exposure (wildlife and human) of perfluorinated compounds as well as their breakdown products. Research should be undertaken on legacy (those already phased out), existing and replacement substances.
Research in this field has been conducted since ca. 2000 when analytical instrumentation and methods for analysis became available. The number of researchers working on perfluorinated compounds has steadily been rising and some of the leading experts are based in the Nordic region. There are currently ca. 60 researchers and 25 Ph.D. students engaged in research on perfluorinated compounds in the 22 participating groups in this  network.

Two overarching research questions have occupied researchers in recent years, (a) why perfluorinated alkyl acids are detected in wildlife in samples globally (including pristine Arctic regions) despite their predominant use in industrialized countries at temperature latitudes [1-4] and (b) how humans are exposed; all humans globally have PFOS and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) in their blood at similar levels (if not occupationally exposed or drinking contaminated drinking water) [5].

Scientists based at Stockholm University made the first estimates of global sources of perfluorinated carboxylates [2]. The first attempts of global modelling of fluorotelomer alcohols and their degradation to carboxylates was undertaken by scientists from the University of Copenhagen [3], whereas the first attempts at global modelling the direct release and transport of carboxylates was conducted by scientists from Stockholm University [4]. Some of the pioneering work on PFCs in Arctic food webs was undertaking by Danish and Norwegian researchers [e.g. 6]. Groups based at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), Stockholm and Örebro University are regarded as globally leading analytical groups in the field. NILU coordinated the first Nordic monitoring survey of perfluorinated compounds (funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers) in a wide range of abiotic and biotic media.

Food intake is suspected to be an important exposure pathway for perfluorinated compounds [5] and thus groups in the network are currently working to develop analytical methods for food samples. The network will enable researchers to undertake further work to understand how exposure from food may be influenced by special features of the Nordic diet. In an on-going project at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health a combination of indoor air, dietary measurements and human biomonitoring is used for investigating human exposure pathways and health outcomes.Although the above summary demonstrates successes in individual organisations, research and research training in the Nordic region suffers from a lack of coordination, which we elaborate on in the next section.
[1] Giesy, JP and Kannan, K (2001) Environ Sci Technol, 35, 1339-1342.
[2] Prevedouros, K, et al. (2006) Environ Sci Technol, 40, 32-44.
[3] Wallington, T (2006) Environ Sci Technol, 40, 924-930.
[4] Armitage, J (2006) Environ Sci Technol, 40, 6969-6975.
[5] Vestergren, R and Cousins, IT (2009) Environ Sci Technol, 43, 5565-5575.
[6] Dietz, R, et al. (2008) Environ Sci Technol 42, 2701-2707.
Network News

Kick off meeting 17-18 January 2011, Stockholm University

Categories: | Author: Allan | Posted: 11/1/2010 | Views: 3052

A one-day kick-off meeting for partners is organised in Stockholm at the university (Department of Applied Environmental Science) on Monday 17th - Tuesday 18th  January 2011

A one-day kick-off meeting for partners is organised in Stockholm at the university (Department of Applied Environmental Science) on Monday 17th - Tuesday 18th  January 2011 starting after lunch on the 17th and ending after lunch on the 18th. All partners will be represented by at least one person.  This is an important meeting to discuss network activities.

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