Analysis of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay following a large-scale industrial fire using ion-mobility-spectrometry-mass spectrometry

Ivan Rusyn , Alan Valdiviezo , Noor A. Aly , Yu-Syuan Luo , Alexandra Cordova , Gaston Casillas , MaKayla Foster , Erin S. Baker


Received June 07, 2021,Revised , Accepted August 07, 2021, Available online August 22, 2021

Volume 34,2022,Pages 350-362

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are persistent organic pollutants of concern because of their ubiquitous presence in surface and ground water; analytical methods that can be used for rapid comprehensive exposure assessment and fingerprinting of PFAS are needed. Following the fires at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) in Deer Park, TX in 2019, large quantities of PFAS-containing firefighting foams were deployed. The release of these substances into the Houston Ship Channel/Galveston Bay (HSC/GB) prompted concerns over the extent and level of PFAS contamination. A targeted liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)-based study of temporal and spatial patterns of PFAS associated with this incident revealed presence of 7 species; their levels gradually decreased over a 6-month period. Because the targeted LC-MS/MS analysis was focused on about 30 PFAS molecules, it may have missed other PFAS compounds present in firefighting foams. Therefore, we utilized untargeted LC-ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry (LC-IMS-MS)-based analytical approach for a more comprehensive characterization of PFAS in these water samples. We analyzed 31 samples from 9 sites in the HSC/GB that were collected over 5 months after the incident. Our data showed that additional 19 PFAS were detected in surface water of HSC/GB, most of them decreased gradually after the incident. PFAS features detected by LC-MS/MS correlated well in abundance with LC-IMS-MS data; however, LC-IMS-MS identified a number of additional PFAS, many known to be components of firefighting foams. These findings therefore illustrate that untargeted LC-IMS-MS improved our understanding of PFAS presence in complex environmental samples.

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