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Perfluorinated compounds may pose a risk to firefighters

By Paul Grad |

Perfluorinated compounds — firefighting foams — such as perfluorooctane sulfonates (PFOS) have been used as fire suppressants, but some of them, such as perfluoroalkyl acids have been associated with serious environmental contamination. Also, several new fluorinated surfactants have been developed lately, and there has been concern over the effect of those substances on wildlife and on firefighters who are most exposed to them. However, several of those new compounds have not yet been identified and it may be very difficult to identify them. Now, a team from the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia; www.uq.edu.au), Örebro University (Örebro, Sweden; www.oru.se), and Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane, Australia; www.qut.edu.au) has developed a method borrowed from medicine for identifying those substances in the blood of firefighters. The team compared the fluorinated surfactants found in the blood of 20 firefighters with compounds in the blood of 20 people who had not been exposed to firefighting foams. The team ran the blood samples through the traditional quadrupole time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry (QTOF-MS/MS) and has identified more than 3,000 organic and fluorinated compounds. However, when the…
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