Publication Details (including relevant citation information):
EPA Office of Research and Development, PFAA Days III, June 8-10, 2010.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) consist of a diverse group of compounds characterized by their unique chemical-physical properties. Because of their widespread use in industrial and consumer applications, PFCs eventually reach wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) through industrial discharge, wastewaters generated by the cleaning of PFC-treated products, leaching of plastic products and indirect nonpoint sources. As such, WWTPs may be a major route of PFCs to the environment since conventional WWTPs have proven to be ineffective in removing PFCs, and under certain processes can increase concentrations. With respect to possible modes of human exposure and risk, several studies have shown significant concentrations of PFCs in generated WWTP sludge (biosolids). As such, there is concern for land application of biosolids since this commonly used waste disposal practice could present direct exposure routes through consumption of foods and crops. This concern has been highlighted recently by a contamination event in Decatur, Alabama, where elevated levels of PFCs were found and traced back to treated municipal biosolids that was applied to 4900 acres of rural land used for grazing cattle and crops. Although crops fertilized with PFC-containing biosolids may be an important exposure route to humans, few studies have attempted to estimate the transfer potential of PFCs from soil to plant.
As little data exist regarding the levels of PFCs in soils after land application or plant uptake resulting from this practice, our study is designed to examine whether detectable levels of PFCs are found in soil and plants of areas where biosolids had been land applied as fertilizer generated from mixed industrial and domestic waste facilities. In addition, we will conduct a controlled study in the field to assess the uptake of PFC in a variety of plants grown in contaminated biosolids.