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Emerging contaminants Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)

Research led by ESG under the guidance of Health Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Department of National Defence is improving the reliability of sampling and analytical methods that test for the presence of PFOS in the environment and advancing the scientific basis for the development of regulatory guidelines.

Research by ESG is helping to address some challenging questions concerning a group of contaminants of emerging concern, Perflourinated compounds (PFCs).


PFCs are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used widely for over fifty years in various industrial and consumer applications for their heat, oil and stain resistant properties.  


A main source of PFC’s in Canada is a certain type of fire-fighting foam which, amongst other PFCs, contains perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a PFC derivative that was added to the list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in 2006.


PFCs and related compounds are classified as persistent contaminants and have the potential to bioaccumulate. They have been detected in the environment in fish, birds and mammals. It is not well understood, however, how these substances are transported in the environment and what are the most important routes of human exposure.


A primary challenge has been to acquire meaningful data regarding the environmental concentrations of PFCs in groundwater media. Current work suggests that this obstacle has been overcome.

  Current areas of research

Arsenic transformation in the environment

Contaminant bioaccessibility

Emerging contaminants

Treatment wetlands

Zero valence metals: synthesis and environmental applications

Fate and effects of nanoparticles in the environment

Microbial community structure and function in the environment