Total Fluorine Measurements in Food Packaging: How Do Current Methods Perform?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) represent a class of more than 4000 compounds. Their large number and structural diversity pose a considerable challenge to analytical chemists. Measurement of total fluorine in environmental samples and consumer products is therefore critical for rapidly screening for PFASs and for assessing the fraction of unexplained fluorine(i.e., fluorine mass balance). Here we compare three emerging analytical techniques for total fluorine determination: combustion ion chromatography (CIC), particle-induced γ-ray emission spectroscopy (PIGE), and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Application of each method to a certified reference material (CRM), spiked filters, and representative food packaging samples revealed good accuracy and precision. INAA and PIGE had the advantage of being nondestructive, while CIC displayed the lowest detection limits. Inconsistencies between the methods arose due to the high aluminum content in the CRM, which precluded its analysis by INAA, and sample heterogeneity (i.e., coating on the surface of the material), which resulted in higher values from the surface measurement technique PIGE compared to the values from the bulk volume techniques INAA and CIC. Comparing CIC-based extractable organic fluorine to target PFAS measurements of food packaging samples by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry revealed large amounts of unidentified organic fluorine not captured by compound-specific analysis.