Introduction: In this study, we explore the identity of a range of polyfluorinated surfactants (PFS) used for food contact materials, primarily to impart oil and water repellency on paper and board. PFS are of interest, as they can be precursors of poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), of which several are persistent and are found worldwide in human blood and in the environment.
Materials and methods: To determine the elemental composition of PFS, we combined information from patents, chemical suppliers and analyses of industrial blends using ultra performance liquid chromatography-negative electrospray ionisation quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry.
Results: At a high pH of 9.7, both non-ionic and anionic PFS were ionised and were recognised by negative mass defects of exact masses, and neutral fragment losses of n × 20 or n × 100 Da. More than 115 molecular structures were found in industrial blends from the EU, US and China, belonging to the groups of polyfluoroalkyl-mono- and di-ester phosphates (monoPAPS, diPAPS and S-diPAPS), -ethoxylates, -acrylates, -amino acids, -sulfonamide phosphates and -thio acids, together with residuals and synthesis byproducts. In addition, a number of starting materials such as perfluorooctane sulfonamide N-alkyl esters were analysed. Di- and trialkylated PAPS and S-diPAPS were found in migrates from European food contact materials.
Conclusion: This study highlights the need to monitor for more types of PFS in order to map the sources of PFAS in humans and the environment.