New perfluorinated chemical reported in German waters

High levels of perfluorobutane sulphonate (PFBS) have been reported in drinking and surface waters in a recent perfluorinated chemicals survey in Germany.1

The study also uncovered significant levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluooctanyl sulphonate (PFOS) pollution due to waste spreading on farmland (ENDS Report 384, p 18 ).

While PFOS and PFOA are increasingly being phased out, PFBS is one of the new generation of perfluorinated compounds used in stain-resistant coatings. 3M, for example, switched to PFBS-based compounds after deciding to phase out PFOS in 2001.

PFBS levels of up to 46 nanograms per litre were reported in the river Rhine, while 71ng/l was reported in a tributary of the river Ruhr. Levels of 669ng/l in a stream were associated with land spreading of industrial wastes. Up to 26ng/l was also reported in drinking water.

3M spokesman Bill Keane told ENDS the company did not use PFBS in Germany and its products would contain only low levels of the compound. Stain-resistant coatings, for example, are generally stable polymers and PFBS would only be present at trace levels.

A risk assessment by the Australian National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme finds that PFBS is highly persistent but has a low mammalian toxicity and low bioaccumulation potential.2Its properties suggest it is likely to remain in water rather than accumulate in sediments or be dispersed in the air.

There appear to be no reports of PFBS levels in the UK environment.