American Chemical Society
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Estimation of the Acid Dissociation Constant of Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylic Acids through an Experimental Investigation of their Water-to-Air Transport

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-02-18, 19:20 authored by Lena Vierke, Urs Berger, Ian T. Cousins
The acid dissociation constants (pKas) of perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs) have been the subject of discussion in the literature; for example, values from −0.2 to 3.8 have been suggested for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The dissociated anionic conjugate bases of PFCAs have negligible air–water partition coefficients (KAWs) and do not volatilize from water. The neutral acids, however, have relatively high KAWs and volatilization from water has been demonstrated. The extent of volatilization of PFCAs in the environment will depend on the water pH and their pKa. Knowledge of the pKas of PFCAs is therefore vital for understanding their environmental transport and fate. We investigated the water-to-air transfer of PFCAs in a novel experimental setup. We used ∼1 μg L–1 of PFCAs in water (above environmental background concentrations but below the concentration at which self-association occurs) at different water pH (pH 0.3 to pH 6.9) and sampled the PFCAs volatilized from water during a 2-day experiment. Our results suggest that the pKas of C4–11 PFCAs are <1.6. For PFOA, we derived a pKa of 0.5 from fitting the experimental measurements with a volatilization model. Perfluoroalkane sulfonic acids were not volatilized, suggesting that their pKas are below the investigated pH range (pKa <0.3).