ACS | Organic Fluorine as an Indicator of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Dust from Buildings with Healthier versus Conventional Materials
ABSTRACT - Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of thousands of persistent, organic fluorinated chemicals added to materials and products mainly to repel stains and water. PFAS have been associated with many adverse human health effects. We aimed to determine whether buildings with “healthier” materials─defined here as reportedly free of all PFAS─exhibit lower PFAS in dust. In addition to analyzing targeted PFAS with available commercial standards, we measured extractable organic fluorine (EOF) as a novel proxy that includes both known and unknown types of PFAS. We measured at least 15 targeted PFAS (n = 24), EOF (n = 24), and total fluorine (TF; n = 14) in dust collected from university common spaces and classrooms, half of which had “healthier” furniture and carpet. We observed lower PFAS contamination in buildings with “healthier” materials: “healthier” rooms had a 66% lower median summed PFAS and a 49% lower Kaplan–Meier estimated mean EOF level in dust in comparison to conventional rooms. The summed targeted PFAS were significantly correlated with EOF but accounted for up to only 9% of EOF, indicating the likely presence of unidentified PFAS. EOF levels explained less than 1% of TF in dust. We emphasize the need to use chemical class-based methods (e.g., EOF) for evaluating class-based solutions and to expand non-PFAS solutions for other building materials.
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