Screening for PFAS in Water

Per- and poly-fluoro alkyl substances (PFAS) are a large class of chemicals that are toxic to people and the environment. One route of exposure to these chemicals is through drinking water. The current standard method for measuring PFAS is with liquid chromatography tandem mass spectroscopy (LC/MS-MS) which is an expensive and time-consuming method. This is what lead us to pursue an inexpensive and fast screening technique for measuring these compounds in drinking water. 

Our developed screening method involves gravity filtering water through an activated carbon felt material and directly analyzing the filter with particle induced gamma ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy to measure the total fluorine signal. With this method we can achieve detection limits below the EPA’s set health advisory for these compounds, hopefully allowing for this method to be useful for providing more people with access to testing for these compounds. 


Tighe, M., Jin, Y., Whitehead, H. D., Hayes, K., Lieberman, M., Peaslee, G.F., Screening for per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances in water with particle induced gamma-ray emission spectroscopy. ACS Environmental Science and Technology Water, in review (2021).