PFAS Fingerprinting: A Multivariate Forensic Analysis to Detect the Origin and Extent of PFAS Contamination in Northern Italy.
PFAS Fingerprinting: A Multivariate Forensic Analysis to Detect the Origin and Extent of PFAS Contamination in Northern Italy.

May 3, 2021

TIG contributed presentations to this year’s SETAC EU virtual conference in the session Environmental Forensics - State of the Science and Global Applications. Carlo Monti, Nicholas D. Rose, and Timothy Negley shared a presentation on "PFAS Fingerprinting: A Multivariate Forensic Analysis to Detect the Origin and Extent of PFAS Contamination in Northern Italy"


PFAS are omnipresent in environmental media and are distributed globally. Their potential to enter the food chain is high, thanks to their ability to migrate from water to soils and be taken up by plants. These substances can enter the human body through food, drinking water, and direct skin contact; moreover, they are not metabolized and can bio-accumulate. Contact with PFAS-containing materials (e.g., water-resistant materials, detergents, paints, fabrics) can also increase human exposure. The scope of this project is to demonstrate an approach to identify original PFAS sources using a multivariate method (PCA and cluster analysis) and PVA (polytopic vector analysis) algorithm developed in R by the authors. This case study is in the Veneto Region of Northern Italy. The chronology of the case is: 2013: PFAS was found in groundwater, surface water and drinking-water supply for 127,000 people; 2013 – 2018: Water and bio-monitoring studies conducted; 2014: PFAS thresholds established for Veneto Region (PFOS: ≤ 30 ng/L; PFOA: ≤ 500 ng/L; Other PFAS: ≤ 500 ng/L); 2017: Legal case developed against a nearby chemical plant manufacturing PFAS; 2018: Chemical plant filed for bankruptcy and released all 121 employees.Data were obtained from a public water monitoring database[1] containing more than 8,000 samples analyzed for PFAS in groundwater, surface water, springs, and treated industrial wastewater discharged to surface water. After database review, nearly 1,400 samples and eight PFAS out of 18 (PFBA, PFPeA, PFBS, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFHxS, PFOA, PFOS) were deemed useable for fingerprinting. The fingerprint of a nearby chemical plant manufacturing PFAS was also derived from public data. The PCA, cluster analysis, and PVA results indicate that in certain parts of the Veneto region groundwater and surface water contamination is associated with the nearby PFAS manufacturer and industrial sources, while other sources are responsible for PFAS contamination elsewhere in the Region. The results highlight the ability of the approach to differentiate original sources of PFAS contamination, particularly when source fingerprints can be derived. [1] https://www.arpa.veneto.it/dati-ambientali/open-data/idrosfera/concentrazione-di-sostanze-perfluoroalchiliche-pfas-nelle-acque-prelevate-da-arpav

TIG Environmental Staff