• Period | 2017 - 2021
  • Country | Norway
  • Market | Geotechnics and Environment
  • Project Manager | Sarah Hale
  • Client | The Research Council of Norway
R&D program|

Reducing negative impact of PFAS

Desk, lab and field work to investigate the fate and behaviour of PFAS in the environment, specifically focusing on Norwegian case study sites
Reducing the impact of fluorinated compounds
on the environment and human health

Generating PDF file

This research project "Reducing the impact of fluorinated compounds on the environment and human Health", was funded by The Research Council of Norway, project number: 268258/E50.

Project aims

The main objective of the research was to investigate the impact of "first generation" and "future generation" PFAS, on the environment and human health. To achieve this the secondary objectives were defined as:

  • Determine PFAS mass balances for local and diffusive environmental inputs
  • Optimize analytical methods for the detection of PFAS in soil, water and biota, thus optimizing monitoring campaigns
  • Carry out real world tests to investigate the effect of Norwegian environmental conditions of PFAS behaviour
  • Use effects directed analysis (EDA) to determine PFAS impact on human health
  • Bring together scientific experts, problem owners, end users and regulators to encourage dialogue and knowledge development


First and second generation PFAS: new hazardous substances

Poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) refer to a diverse class of compounds that have a hydrophobic, alkylated, fluorine-saturated carbon-chain with a hydrophilic head attached at a terminal end. These compounds have been produced since the 1950s and are used by industry and in consumer products as protective coatings for textiles and paper, in the production of semi-conductors, as components of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), as polymer additives, in herbicide and insecticide formulations and in cosmetics.

PFAS are characterised by a high environmental persistence and ubiquitous environmental presence. Unique chemical properties including; hydrophobicity, oleophobicity, resistance to chemical, biological and physical degradation processes, high potential for bioaccumulation and biomagnification and toxicity to organisms at environmentally relevant concentrations has given rise to environmental concern.

Effects on the ecosystem and human health

Typical toxic effects of PFAS include liver toxicity, carcinogenicity, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, and neurotoxicity. Effects on liver include hepatomegaly (enlargement), hypertrophy, vacuolization and increase in liver weight. Carcinogenic effects have been observed in liver and testis, while evidence for tumour formation in thyroid and mammary has been noted.

Developmental effects can include foetal resorption, reduced foetal and birth weight, and neonatal mortality. Immunotoxic effects include changes in inflammatory response, production of cytokines, and reduced thymus and spleen weights. Neurotoxic effects include impaired performance in behavioural tests.

PFAS emissions

This project considered the following PFAS emissions

AFFF: Aqueous film-forming foams are used to extinguish fires. They are often used during firefighting training and as such can result in a point source environmental pollution. Characteristic AFFF PFAS pollution is found in water, soil, sediment and biota in the vicinity of airports.

Production of paper products: Many paper products are coated with a mixture of chemicals that includes PFAS. It is known that the 3M product called Scotchban which was used for paper products, contains a mixture of SAmPAP and PFOS precursors (preFOS). These are precursors to the terminal perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAA). The production of paper products represents a point source emission.

Diffuse pollution: The sheer number of uses for PFAS results in an inherent diffuse PFAS pollution. Atmospheric transport and subsequent deposition of certain volatile PFAS as well as transport with seawater currents represent diffuse pollution transport pathways.

Monitoring of PFASs in the environment

Compliance with environmental legislation involves determining the concentration of PFAS in various environmental compartments and comparing results with regulatory thresholds. Soil and sediment analysis of PFAS is most often carried out using an extraction followed liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

For water analysis, the most commonly employed method is the use of grab water sampling followed by a solid phase extraction (SPE) method and analysis as above. Passive sampling where by low concentrations can be detected over longer time periods than a single grab sample, could be an alternative for water monitoring.

Period |

Project management

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), lead the project in collaboration with

  • The Norwegian Institute for Water Research, (NIVA),
  • The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, (NMBU),
  • The Colorado School of Mines, (CSM),
  • The department for Environment & Health, Vrije University Amsterdam, (E&H),
  • The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, (NTNU).

NGI is nationally and internationally recognized as an expert in the area of risk assessment, remediation technology, contaminant site and waste characterization, skills that are used in current PFASs projects. NGI is currently working with Avinor at Oslo airport to suggest remediation strategies for the firefighting training facility.

NGI is very well placed to use this as a case study site. In addition NGI is member of the Army Construction Service (Forsvarsbygg) expert group on PFASs evaluating site assessment data and exploring remedial measures at several military airfields throughout Norway.

NIVA is the leading institute for basic and applied research on marine and freshwater in Norway, with research comprising a wide array of environmental, climatic and resource-related fields. NIVA has studied the occurrence and effect of various PFASs in water, sediments, and biota in both national and international projects.

E&H has ample experience with in vitro bioassay measurements of pure compounds (including PFAS) and complex environmental mixtures present in water, sediment, biota, and passive samplers.

NMBU is well versed in the analytical techniques used to detect PFAS in various environmental compartments.

CSM has been actively looking at the fate, transport, and bioaccumulation of PFASs in the environment, and has a number of ongoing projects examining PFASs fate, transport, and remediation at U.S. Department of Defence sites that have been impacted by AFFF.

NTNU has extensive experience on effects of environmental pollutants on biota. Research activities involve laboratory- and fieldwork, with a special focus on the Norwegian and Svalbard environment. A comparative approach on environmental toxicology provides knowledge on vulnerable species, and effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals.


Partner lohos assembeled


Project management, organisation and cooperation

Our interdisciplinary team has vast experience with the fate and transport of pollutants in various environmental compartments.

Dr Sarah Hale, NGI
was the project leader and has a background in environmental chemistry specifically within soil remediation, passive sampling of pollutants and the fate of persistent, mobile and toxic substances in the environment. She is currently leading the European Commission funded H2020 project ZeroPM: Zero pollution of persistent. Mobile substances. www.zeropm.eu

Prof Gijs D. Breedveld (NGI, UiO)
has 25 years of experience on establishing risk guidelines and contaminant site characterization through projects related to contaminants airports and their natural attenuation processes in collaboration with Avinor and Oslo airport.

Dr Håkon Austad Langberg (NGI, NTNU)
was the PhD student within the project and has gained extensive experience of working with PFAS, both the environmental occurrence and fate, the toxicological implications of the presence of PFAS in the environment and the role of advanced analytical methods for PFAS in site management

Dr Morten Jartun, NIVA,
is an environmental chemist with a broad experience from soil surveys, urban runoff projects, coordinating environmental monitoring programs. He worked for 6 years at Oslo airport looking at the multiple environmental challenges of PFAS in soil, groundwater, and surface recipients. He also coordinated various remediation projects for PFAS in groundwater.

Prof Roland Kallenborn, NMBU and Adjunct Professor at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS),
is an organic analytical chemist focusing on method development and validation for chemical contaminants of emerging concern (CEC). He has more than 25 years of experience in this field. Kallenborn published the first survey of PFASs in the Nordic environment (Kallenborn et al., 2004).

Assoc. Prof Christopher Higgins, (CSM),
has extensive expertise with fate, transport, and treatment studies on PFASs. He leads several environmental PFAS-focused projects in the U.S., and has significant expertise in applying LC-QTOF-MS to PFAS research and examining PFAS at AFFF-impacted sites. Assoc. Prof Timo Hamers, IVM, has extensive experience with in vitro toxicity profiling of both pure compounds and complex environmental mixtures. IVM has had successful collaborations with all Norwegian partners; NGI in the Interreg IV-B funded DiPol program (Impact of Climate Change on the quality of urban and coastal waters (Diffuse Pollution)), with NMBU within the RCN funded program Forurens, and with NIVA in the EU-FP6 funded project Modelkey and the Marie Curie Research Training Networks Keybioeffects and EDA-Emerge.

Ass. Prof. Timo Hamers (E&H) is an environmental toxicologist with expertise in the development, optimisation and application of small-scale in vitro bioassays to determine toxicity profiles of sets of individual compounds and complex environmental mixtures of pollutants.

Prof Bjørn Munro Jenssen (NTNU) has vast experience related to how environmental pollutants affect animals, especially on endocrine systems (hormone systems and vitamin balance). Extensive field work has been carried out in the Arctic and with PFAS. His research group has investigated effects of exposure to environmental concentrations of pollutants in a variety of species in the Norwegian and Arctic environment; zooplankton, fish amphibians, birds, and marine mammals. 

The following publications have been produced during the project:

Using Passive Samplers to Track per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Emissions From the Paper Industry: Laboratory Calibration and Field Verification

A review of PFAS fingerprints in fish from Norwegian freshwater bodies subject to different source inputs

Excavated vs novel in situ soil washing as a remediation strategy for sandy soils impacted with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances from aqueous film forming foams

The fate of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances in a marine food web influenced by land-based sources in the Norwegian Arctic

Legacy and emerging per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) in sediment and edible fish from the Eastern Red Sea

Stabilization of PFAS-contaminated soil with activated biochar  

Paper product production identified as the main source of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a Norwegian lake: source and historic emission tracking

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in contaminated coastal marine waters of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea: a baseline study

Fluorinated precursor compounds in sediments as a source of Perfluorinated Alkyl Acids (PFAA) to biota

Bioaccumulation of Fluorotelomer Sulfonates and Perfluoroalkyl Acids in Marine Organisms Living in Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Impacted Waters

Can biochar and designer biochar be used to remediate per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) and lead and antimony contaminated soils?

Sorbent amendment as a remediation strategy to reduce PFAS mobility and leaching in a contaminated sandy soil from a Norwegian firefighting training facility

Bodø airport

Blog post about the published paper from Bodø airport:

What goes around, comes around: Accumulation of PFAS in Marine Critters
14th August 2019. (English) 


Press releases from the Norwegian Environment Agency (Miljødirektoratet):

Tyrifjorden: Høye nivåer av miljøgifter
24th May 2019 (Norwegian)

Leter etter utslippskilde i Tyrifjorden
11th April 2017 (Norwegian)

News coverage about PFAS pollution in lake Tyrifjorden:

Nye funn slår alarm om fluorgifter i naturen: – Dette er egentlig ganske ekstreme mengder
21st March 2021 (Norwegian) 

Hva betyr funnene av miljøgifter i Tyrifjorden?
13th february 2020 

PFAS contamination from a paper factory in a "pristine" Norwegian lake
September 2021

Forurensingen i Tyrifjorden: “Foruroligende”, sier Miljødirektoratet
1st June 2019 (Norwegian)

Mattilsynet advarer om miljøgift i abbor, ørret og gjedde: - Helseskadelig å spise fisken her
29th May 2019 (Norwegian)

Miljøgifter påvist i Tyrifjorden: – Ikke spis fisken
27th May 2019 (Norwegian) 

Friskmelder drikkevannet, men fortsatt bekymret for giftstoffer i fisk
29th January 2018 (Norwegian)

Popular science article about PFAS pollution in lake Tyrifjorden:

Hvorfor er det mer miljøgift i fisk fra Tyrifjorden?
15th May 2017 (Norwegian)


/ Contacts

Position |

E |

M |

/ Related projects