• 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

Field and laboratory work will be carried out to assess the loads of fluorinated compounds on the environment and their impact on health.
Reducing the impact of fluorinated compounds
on the environment and human health

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

Project aims

The main objective of the project is to investigate the impact of "first generation" and "future generation" poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), on the environment and human health. To achieve this the following secondary objectives have been identified:

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

Initial project plans can be found here

New knowledge that will be generated

  • Methods for soil, water and biota will be optimize and the methods best suited to different types of samples identified.
  • A passive sampling method for PFASs will be tested in the field leading to a method that can be used by problem owners in order to demonstrate compliance with regulation.
  • A system analysis will be carried out to determine mass balances of PFASs in the environment for different case studies including point and diffuse environmental inputs.
  • The effect of environmentally challenging conditions such as low temperature and episodic snow melting on PFASs behaviour in the environment will be investigated.
  • Effect based monitoring using in vitro bioassays allows assessment of the total PFASs-like toxicity present in complex environmental mixtures.
  • Effect-directed analysis (EDA) will identify emerging compounds in complex environmental mixtures with PFASs-like toxic properties.  


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

A common hotspot PFASs source has resulted from the use of AFFF during firefighting training at airports, large industrial installations, and military bases. This has led to large PFAS emissions to soils and aquatic water systems. Industrial, textile and paper making can also result in point source PFAS emissions. Diffuse emissions often arise from landfill leachate and perfluorinated alkylated acids (PFAAs) have been detected in various media in the vicinity of densely populated areas with landfills.

In addition, the continuous use of recreational products such as ski wax may have long lasting effects on environmental PFASs burdens. Diffuse PFAS sources (including atmospheric emissions of polyfluorinated PFASs precursors and subsequent deposition and/or transformation) may be responsible for the low levels of PFASs observed in soils from all over the globe.

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 PFASs 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.

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Project management

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, (NGI), will lead the project and will be supported by

  • 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 PFASs) 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
will act as project leader and has a background in environmental chemistry specifically within soil remediation and passive sampling of pollutants. She is well versed in leading large international research projects, currently leading an NFR funded project in Indonesia to investigate the effect soil amendment on agriculture. She holds the role of Technical Lead for Contaminated Land and is therefore aware of cutting edge research in this area as well as industrial and regulatory developments. She is a key member of the project team for the PFAS project at Oslo airport having carried out field work, laboratory work, investigated the fate of PFOS and explored the use of passive sampling within this project.

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.

Åse Høiseter and Dr Hans Peter Arp (NGI)
who have also been very involved in the PFAS work at NGI, both consultancy and research projects, will assist in the work. Hans Peter Arp has vast experience with mass balance work, having looked in to the mass balance of pollutants in waste from a complete life cycle perspective. Åse Høiseter is project leader for both PFAS projects carried out in collaboration with Avinor and Lindum, thus providing a strong link to the user group and case study sites.

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.

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. 

Publications from the research work are made available here:

        The supporting information (SI) can be found here


         The supporting information (SI) can be found here



Presentations that have been held in the project are made available on a separate page. See available presentations


/ Contacts

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