PFOA – Perfluorooctanoic Acid & C8
PFOA is perfluorooctanoic acid, which is a surfactant that has an 8-carbon chain (C8) structure and has been globally used for industrial purposes since the 1940s. However, in recent years, the use of this chemical has become highly controversial due to public health concerns and environmental pollution hazards. As a result, PFOA is currently undergoing an international phase-out, driven by increasing regulation the protection of human health. And much like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), environmental scientists find all forms of C8 contamination (including perfluorooctanoic acid) are difficult to remediate. This is because PFOA does not breakdown or degrade easily. Especially within typical soil, groundwater, and bodily conditions. Updated March 26, 2021.
Other Chemical Names
PFOA is actually part of a larger chemical group, which is the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance, or PFAS (highly fluorinated aliphatic molecules). Moreover, the term “C8” references the presence of specific compounds of the PFAS family. Particularly the compounds with the eight-unit carbon chain structure (also referred to as C8). Thus, PFOA (or perfluorooctanoic acid) is one of the two chemicals of concern in the C8 family. The other is PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonate.
PFOA Chemical Properties & Perfluorooctanoic Acid Molecular Formula
PFOA has the chemical formula C8HF15O2, a melting point of 40 to 50 degrees Celsius and a boiling point of 189 degrees Celcius. Moreover, the chemical has a molar mass of 414.07 grams per mol, and a density of 1.8 grams per cubic centimeter. PFOA identifies as Chemical Abstract Service Number 335-67-1, and exists as a white power and wax. And unlike PFOS, perfluorooctanoic acid becomes water-soluble at a concentration of 0.0095 milligrams per liter, at a temperature of 25 degrees Celcius.
Pollution & Contamination
Modern scientific reports and journals indicate there are detectable concentrations of PFOA within soil and groundwater samples, collected worldwide. Similarly, scientists understand that this chemical of concern additionally exists in freshwater bodies, as well as the ocean. And this substance does not breakdown easily. Thus, its biomagnification potential may pose long-lasting environmental concerns.
C8 Pollution in Soil & Groundwater
As a result of PFOA manufacturing and waste disposal processes, pollutants have the tendency to leach into the subsurface over time. This can occur from liquid waste, solid waste, and industrial sludge. The process ultimately leads to C8 soil contamination and C8 groundwater pollution. Consequently, various municipal supply wells can intercept the C8 contaminants while pumping groundwater for drinking water purposes.
Uses of Perfluorooctanoic Acid
Perfluorooctanoic acid exists in many substances worldwide. In fact, this chemical has been apparent in a variety of commercial and household consumer goods. For example, sealing materials, fire extinguishing products, non-stick products, carpet materials, cloth, furniture upholstery, and various cleaning products.
Human Health Risks
Research regarding the human health risk and environmental effects of PFOA exposure is ongoing at this time. Although, the Environmental Protection Agency and Center for Disease Control suspect six general side effects from perfluorooctanoic acid exposure: hypertension (pregnancy-induced), thyroid diseases, testicular cancer, high cholesterol, kidney cancer, and colitis.
C8 testing procedures comprise testing for PFOA, as well as the other substances under the PFAS umbrella. Typical testing parameters include soil, groundwater, drinking water and blood from humans and animals.