Accumulation of trifluoroacetate in seasonal wetlands in California

Thomas M. Cahill, Carmen M. Thomas, Steven E. Schwarzbach, James N. Seiber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Trifluoroacetate (TFA, CF3COO-)is a stable and mildly phytotoxic breakdown product of several fluorinated organic compounds including the hydro(chloro)fluorocarbons (HFC/HCFCs)that have largely replaced the stratospheric ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). TFA enters aquatic ecosystems primarily through precipitation and has the potential to accumulate in water bodies with little or no outflow to the point where toxic concentrations could be achieved. This study demonstrated that seasonal wetlands lacking outflow concentrated TFA as they evaporated during the dry season. In addition, the TFA within the pools was retained between years, which may result in long-term TFA accumulation. Since plants acquire TFA from their growing media, the plants exposed to high aqueous concentrations of TFA within the pools had elevated TFA concentrations with a median concentration of 279 ng/g dry weight in their tissues as compared to 33 ng/g for species growing outside the pools. The highest TFA concentrations in water, which occurred just prior to the pools drying up, were in the 2-10 μg/L range. These concentrations are approximately 190 or less than reported toxic concentrations for the most sensitive species tested, but our evidence suggests that these concentrations will increase with continued TFA deposition into the pools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-825
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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