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Bioaccumulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances by freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates: Impact of species and sediment organic carbon content

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Science of the Total Environment
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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in aquatic environments have caused global concern due to their persistence, toxicity, and potential bioaccumulation of some compounds. As an important compartment of the aquatic ecosystem, sediment properties impact PFAS partitioning between aqueous and solid phases, but little is known about the influence of sediment organic carbon content on PFAS bioaccumulation in benthic organisms. In this study, three freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates – worms (Lumbriculus variegatus), mussels (Elliptio complanata) and snails (Physella acuta) – were exposed for 28 days to PFAS spiked synthetic sediment equilibrated with a synthetic surface water. Using microcosms, sediment organic carbon content – 2%, 5% and 8% – was manipulated to assess its impact on PFAS bioaccumulation. Worms were found to have substantially greater PFAS bioaccumulation compared to mussels and snails. The bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) and biota sediment accumulation factors (BSAFs) in worms were both one to two magnitudes higher than in mussels and snails, likely due to different habitat-specific uptake pathways and elimination capacities among species. In these experiments, increasing sediment organic carbon content decreased the bioaccumulation of PFAS to benthic macroinvertebrates. In worms, sediment organic carbon content was hypothesized to impact PFAS bioaccumulation by affecting PFAS partitioning and sediment ingestion rate. Notably, the BSAF values of 8:2 fluorotelomer sulfonic acid (FTS) were the largest among 14 PFAS for all species, suggesting that the benthic macroinvertebrates probably have different metabolic mechanisms for fluorotelomer sulfonic acids compared to fish evaluated in published literature. Understanding the impact of species and sediment organic carbon on PFAS bioaccumulation is key to developing environmental quality guidelines and evaluating potential ecological risks to higher trophic level species.