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Definition of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid:
Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) is a man-made global pollutant. PFOS is suspected of compromising the immune system of wildlife and a small segment of highly exposed people globally[1].
This is the common definition for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, other definitions can be discussed in the article


Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid

PFOS is used in many industrial applications including; fire fighting foams, pesticides and consumer applications like surface coatings for carpets, furniture and paper[2].

PFOS is a persistent compound, shows little biodegradation and is globally distributed in living organisms. It is found in almost all animals, in almost all environments, including the Arctic and the Antarctic. Although it also has a high tendency to bioaccumulate, PFOS seems to behave differently from organochlorine compounds: for PFOS no clear relationship of bioaccumulation with age could be determined[3] .

These compounds have been present in biota for decades, but only recently concern has been raised about their potential environmental and biological effects. Presently there is a lot of uncertainty about their exact environmental fate and their accumulation patterns[4].

Concentrations which have been shown in laboratory conditions to cause acute toxicity in fish range from 4,7 mg/l till 370 mg/l, depending on the species. The lowest concentration which significantly affected the growth and survival of a fish species was 0,3 mg/l. Environmental concentrations can reach 0,2 µg/l in the heavily polluted Tokyo Bay[2].

PFOS has been shown to influence the lipid metabolism (in rodents), to reduce weight gain and food consumption. The latter leads to abortions and reduced fetal weight. It is also suspected to induce liver necrosis[5].

Case studies

PFOS contamination in bib and plaice in the Western Scheldt

Environmental standards and legislation

Included in the OSPAR list of substances of priority action

Included in the water framework list of priority substances

See also

Polyfluorinated compounds - a new class of global pollutants in the coastal environment


  1. July 31 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nobuyoshi Yamashita, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Sachi Taniyasu, Yuichi Horii, Gert Petrick, Toshitaka Gamo; 2005, A global survey of perfluorinated acids in oceans; Marine Pollution Bulletin, 51, 8-12, 658-668
  3. K. I. Van de Vijver, P. T. Hoff, K. Das, W. Van Dongen, E. L. Esmans, U. Siebert, J. M. Bouquegneau, R. Blust, W. M. De Coen; 2004; Baseline study of perfluorochemicals in harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) from Northern Europe; Marine Pollution Bulletin, 48, 9-10, 992-997
  4. Isabel Cunha, Philippe Hoff, Kristin Van de Vijver, Lúcia Guilhermino, Eddy Esmans, Wim De Coen, 2005, Baseline study of perfluorooctane sulfonate occurrence in mussels, Mytilus galloprovincialis, from north-central portuguese estuaries Marine Pollution Bulletin; 50; 10; 1128-1132
  5. Hoff, P.T.; Van de Vijver, K.; Van Dongen, W.; Esmans, E.L.; Blust, R.; De Coen, W.M. (2003). Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid in bib (Trisopterus luscus) and plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) from the western Scheldt and the Belgian North Sea: distribution and biochemical effects. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 22(3): 608-614
The main author of this article is Daphnis De Pooter
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Daphnis De Pooter (2020): PFOS. Available from [accessed on 13-04-2024]