Determination of 56 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in top predators and their prey from Northern Europe by LC-MS/MS

Andreas Androulakakis, Nikiforos Alygizakis, Georgios Gkotsis, Maria Christina Nika, Varvara Nikolopoulou, Erasmia Bizani, Elizabeth Chadwick, Alessandra Cincinelli, Daniela Claßen, Sara Danielsson, Rene W.R.J. Dekker, Guy Duke, Natalia Glowacka, Hugh A.H. Jansman, Oliver Krone, Tania Martellini, Paola Movalli, Sara Persson, Anna Roos, Emily O'RourkeUrsula Siebert, Gabriele Treu, Nico W. van den Brink, Lee Anthony Walker, Rob Deaville, Jaroslav Slobodnik, Nikolaos S. Thomaidis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of emerging substances that have proved to be persistent and highly bioaccumulative. They are broadly used in various applications and are known for their long-distance migration and toxicity. In this study, 65 recent specimens of a terrestrial apex predator (Common buzzard), freshwater and marine apex predators (Eurasian otter, harbour porpoise, grey seal, harbour seal) and their potential prey (bream, roach, herring, eelpout) from northern Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) were analyzed for the presence of legacy and emerging PFAS, employing a highly sensitive liquid chromatography electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) method. 56 compounds from 14 classes were measured; 13 perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs), 7 perfluoroalkyl sulphonic acids (PFSAs), 3 perfluorooctane sulfonamides (FOSAs), 4 perfluoroalkylphosphonic acids (PFAPAs), 3 perfluoroalkylphosphinic acids (PFPi's), 5 telomer alcohols (FTOHs), 2 mono-substituted polyfluorinated phosphate esters (PAPs), 2 di-substituted polyfluorinated phosphate esters (diPAPs), 6 saturated fluorotelomer acids (FTAS), 3 unsaturated fluorotelomer acids (FTUAs), 2 N-Alkyl perfluorooctane sulfonamidoethanols (FOSEs), 3 fluorotelomer sulphonic acids (FTSAs), 2 perfluoroether carboxylic acids (PFECAs) and 1 chlorinated perfluoroether sulphonic acid (Cl-PFESA). All samples were lyophilized before analysis, in order to enhance extraction efficiency, improve the precision and achieve lower detection limits. The analytes were extracted from the dry matrices through generic methods of extraction, using an accelerated solvent extraction (ASE), followed by clean-up through solid phase extraction (SPE). Method detection limits and method quantification limits ranged from 0.02 to 1.25 ng/g wet weight (ww) and from 0.05 to 3.79 ng/g (ww), respectively. Recovery ranged from 40 to 137%. Method precision ranged from 3 to 20 %RSD. The sum of PFAS concentration in apex predators livers ranged from 0.2 to 20.2 μg/g (ww), whereas in the fish species muscle tissues it ranged from 16 to 325 ng/g (ww). All analyzed specimens were primarily contaminated with PFOS, while the three PFPi's included in this study exhibited frequency of appearance (FoA) 100 %. C9 to C13 PFCAs were found at high concentrations in apex predator livers, while the overall PFAS levels in fish fillets also exceeded ecotoxicological thresholds. The findings of our study show a clear association between the PFAS concentrations in apex predators and the geographical origin of the specimens, with samples that were collected in urban and agricultural zones being highly contaminated compared to samples from pristine or semi-pristine areas. The high variety of PFAS and the different PFAS composition in the apex predators and their prey (AP&P) samples is alarming and strengthens the importance of PFAS monitoring across the food chain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number131775
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Buzzard
  • Grey seal
  • Harbour porpoise
  • Harbour seal
  • LC-MS/MS
  • Otter
  • PFAS


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