Event Title

Analyzing Water Sources Along Southern Lake Michigan for the Presence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Location

Alumni Hall South

Department

Environmental Science

Abstract

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of chemicals that are used in various manufacturing applications from fire extinguisher foam to cookware due to their resistance to water, heat, and oil derived from their strong carbon-fluorine bonds. Unfortunately, these same properties make PFAS “forever chemicals” that do not easily break down in natural environments and have been recorded to accumulate in humans. While there are maps that show the presence of PFAS in waterways across the US, there are obvious gaps in the data that indicate the need for more extensive testing. The goal of the experiment was to test water sources from locations near southern Lake Michigan for the presence of PFAS using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) ultra-violet visible (UV/VIS) detectors. Water samples were taken from multiple locations around Illinois and Michigan including well water from Hamilton, MI, municipal drinking water from New Buffalo, MI, and the Fox River in McHenry County, IL. Samples were tested using HPLC to analyze for the presence of PFAS by comparing the retention times of our collected water samples against a sample spiked with PFAS. The peaks recorded using HPLC indicated the likely presence of PFAS in all locations, with the Hamilton, MI samples containing the highest concentrations. The presence of common pharmaceutical drugs containing aromatic benzene and naphthalene functionalities was ruled out since no absorbance was observed at the expected wavelengths. In addition to filling the current gaps in sampling data for these substances, this work contributes to the larger body of knowledge necessary to make informed decisions to protect people and the environment.

Faculty Sponsor

Kenneth Nicholson, Northeastern Illinois University

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May 6th, 10:20 AM

Analyzing Water Sources Along Southern Lake Michigan for the Presence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Alumni Hall South

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of chemicals that are used in various manufacturing applications from fire extinguisher foam to cookware due to their resistance to water, heat, and oil derived from their strong carbon-fluorine bonds. Unfortunately, these same properties make PFAS “forever chemicals” that do not easily break down in natural environments and have been recorded to accumulate in humans. While there are maps that show the presence of PFAS in waterways across the US, there are obvious gaps in the data that indicate the need for more extensive testing. The goal of the experiment was to test water sources from locations near southern Lake Michigan for the presence of PFAS using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) ultra-violet visible (UV/VIS) detectors. Water samples were taken from multiple locations around Illinois and Michigan including well water from Hamilton, MI, municipal drinking water from New Buffalo, MI, and the Fox River in McHenry County, IL. Samples were tested using HPLC to analyze for the presence of PFAS by comparing the retention times of our collected water samples against a sample spiked with PFAS. The peaks recorded using HPLC indicated the likely presence of PFAS in all locations, with the Hamilton, MI samples containing the highest concentrations. The presence of common pharmaceutical drugs containing aromatic benzene and naphthalene functionalities was ruled out since no absorbance was observed at the expected wavelengths. In addition to filling the current gaps in sampling data for these substances, this work contributes to the larger body of knowledge necessary to make informed decisions to protect people and the environment.