In situ fate and partitioning of waterborne perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in the Youngsan and Nakdong River Estuaries of South Korea

Seongjin Hong, Jong Seong Khim, Jinsoon Park, Minhee Kim, Woong Ki Kim, Jinho Jung, Seunghun Hyun, Jeong Gyu Kim, Hyojin Lee, Heeseon J. Choi, Garry Codling, John P. Giesy

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80 Citations (Scopus)


Concentrations, distributions, fate, and partitioning of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) were investigated in surface water (n=34) collected from the Youngsan and Nakdong River Estuaries of South Korea. Thirteen individual PFAAs in water and suspended solids (SS) were quantified by use of HPLC-MS/MS. PFAAs were detected in all samples, which indicated that they were widely distributed in the study area. Greater concentrations of PFAAs were found at some inland sites which seemed to be affected by direct input from point sources, such as wastewater treatment plants, and/or indirect diffusive sources, such as surface runoff. Spatial distributions of PFAAs in estuaries along transects toward the open sea demonstrated that these chemicals were transported to the outer region primarily by water discharged during the rainy season. Field-based partition coefficients (Kd) for long-chain PFAAs (C≥8) were significantly correlated with salinity (r2=0.48 to 0.73, p<0.01); Kd values increased exponentially as a function of salinity. Due to the 'salting-out' effect, PFAAs were largely scavenged by adsorption onto SS and/or sediments in estuarine environments. In addition, values for Kd of those PFAAs were directly proportional to the number of carbon atoms in the PFAAs. Salting constants of selected PFAAs were notably greater than those of other environmental organic contaminants, which indicated that adsorption of PFAAs is largely associated with salinity. Overall, the results of the present study will provide better understanding of the fate and transport of PFAAs in the zone of salinity boundary that can be used for developing fate models of PFAAs in the coastal marine environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Feb 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the projects entitled “Development of Technology for CO 2 Marine Geological Storage”, “Development of Integrated Estuarine Management System”, and “Oil Spill Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Restoration ( PM56951 )” funded by the Korean Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs given to Prof. J.S. Khim. Prof. J.P. Giesy was supported by the Canada Research Chair program, the Toxicology Program and Global Institute for Water Security of the University of Saskatchewan , an at large Chair Professorship at the Department of Biology and Chemistry and Research Centre for Coastal Pollution and Conservation, City University of Hong Kong , and the Einstein Professor Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences .


  • Estuary
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • Salting-out effect
  • Water-particle partitioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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