Identifying Per- and Polyfluorinated Chemical Species with a Combined Targeted and Non-Targeted-Screening High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry Workflow

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Historical and emerging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) have garnered significant interest from the public and government agencies from the local to federal levels. The continuing evolution of PFAS chemistries presents a challenge to the environmental monitoring, where ongoing development of targeted methods necessarily lags the discovery of new chemical compounds. There is a need, therefore, to have forward-looking methodologies that can detect emerging and unexpected compounds, monitor these species over time, and resolve details of their chemical structure to enable future work in human health. To this end, non-targeted analysis by high-resolution mass spectrometry offers a broad base detection approach that can be combined with almost any sample preparation scheme and provides significant capabilities for compound identification after detection. Herein, we describe a solid-phase extraction (SPE) based sample concentration method tuned for shorter chain and more hydrophilic PFAS chemistries, such as per fluorinated ether acids and sulfonates, and describe analysis of samples prepared in this fashion in both targeted and non-targeted modes. Targeted methods provide superior quantification when reference standards are available but are intrinsically limited to expected compounds when performing analysis. In contrast, a non-targeted approach can identify the presence of unexpected compounds and provide some information about their chemical structure. Information about chemical features can be used to correlate compounds across sample locations and track abundance and occurrence over time.