Quantitation of Total PFAS Including Trifluoroacetic Acid with Fluorine Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.


Fluorine nuclear magnetic resonance (19F-NMR) spectroscopy has been shown to be a powerful tool capable of quantifying the total per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a complex sample. The technique relies on the characteristic terminal -CF3 shift (-82.4 ppm) in the alkyl chain for quantification and does not introduce bias due to sample preparation or matrix effects. Traditional quantitative analytical techniques for PFAS, such as liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and combustion ion chromatography (CIC), contain inherent limitations that make total fluorine analysis challenging. Here, we report a sensitive 19F-NMR method for the analysis of total PFAS, with a limit of detection of 99.97 nM, or 50 μg/L perfluorosulfonic acid. To demonstrate the capabilities of 19F-NMR, the technique was compared to two commonly used methods for PFAS analysis: total oxidizable precursor (TOP) assay and LC-high resolution MS analysis for targeted quantification and suspect screening. In both cases, the 19F-NMR analyses detected higher total PFAS quantities than either the TOP assay (63%) or LC-MS analyses (65%), suggesting that LC-MS and TOP assays can lead to underreporting of PFAS. Importantly, the 19F-NMR detected trifluoroacetic acid at a concentration more than five times the total PFAS concentration quantified using LC-MS in the wastewater sample. Therefore, the use of 19F-NMR to quantify the total PFAS in highly complex samples can be used to complement classic TOP or LC-MS approaches for more accurate reporting of PFAS contamination in the environment.