Volatile per– and polyfluoroalkyl compounds were measured in air in the vicinity of the Western Antarctic Peninsula during February 2009 (Austral summer). The 6:2, 8:2 and 10:2 fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs) were the most abundant compounds with 8:2 and 10:2 FTOH concentrations averaging 9.9 and 7.4 pgm
–3 respectively, followed by the shorter chain (C4) compounds of methyl perfluorobutane sulfonamide (MeFBSA) and sulfonamidoethanol (MeFBSE) with average concentrations of 3 to 4 pgm–3. Methyl/ethyl fluorooctane sulfonamides and sulfonamidoethanols (FOSA/Es) were <1 pgm–3 in all air samples (n = 8). The concentrations of FTOHs and FOSAs were in good agreement with a previous study (2007) that measured these chemicals in the background atmosphere of the Southern Ocean, although the levels of the MeFBSA/E were found to be 10–fold higher and possibly indicative of the increased use of these chemicals. Air mass back trajectories revealed that air mass movement was from the Antarctic landmass or from the Southern Ocean, the latter in keeping with the prevailing
direction of the Antarctic Circulation Current. Those samples corresponding to air passing over the Antarctic Peninsula did not show notable differences in chemical concentrations or profile indicating that the scientific bases located on or near the Peninsula did not appear to influence PFC levels in the regional atmosphere.Given the lack of air mass incursions from the north (i.e. from the South American continent) then the levels measured here are representative of background concentrations around Antarctica. However,the relatively high levels of MeFBSE were surprising given the reported reactivity of this chemical and short atmospheric residence time. It is likely that this compound, alongside MeFBSA, is providing a source of C2–C4 perfluoroalkyl acids(PFAs)to Antarctic surface waters.
We recommend that long–term air monitoring be established in Antarctica for volatile PFCs and possibly accompanied by deposition monitoring for the PFAs.