Uptake and accumulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in plants

December 1, 2020 - Wenfeng Wang, Geoff Rhodes, Jing Ge, Xiangyang Yu, and <lihui@msu.edu>

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  • Up-to-date knowledge on plant uptake and accumulation of PFASs is reviewed.
  • Multiple sources of PFASs contribute to their accumulation in plants.
  • Root uptake is the major pathway for accumulation of PFASs in agricultural crops.
  • Uptake and accumulation of PFASs vary with plants, chemicals and abiotic factors.
  • Further mechanic understanding of plant uptake of PFASs is warranted.


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a class of persistent organic contaminants that are ubiquitous in the environment and have been found to be accumulated in agricultural products. Consumption of PFAS-contaminated agricultural products represents a feasible pathway for the trophic transfer of these toxic chemicals along food chains/webs, leading to risks associated with human and animal health. Recently, studies on plant uptake and accumulation of PFASs have rapidly increased; consequently, a review to summarize the current knowledge and highlight future research is needed. Analysis of the publications indicates that a large variety of plant species can take up PFASs from the environment. Vegetables and grains are the most commonly investigated crops, with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as the most studied PFASs. The potential sources of PFASs for plant uptake include industrial emissions, irrigation with contaminated water, land application of biosolids, leachates from landfill sites, and pesticide application. Root uptake is the predominant pathway for the accumulation of PFASs in agricultural crops, and uptake by plant aboveground portions from the ambient atmosphere could play a minor role in the overall PFAS accumulation. PFAS uptake by plants is influenced by physicochemical properties of compounds (e.g., perfluorocarbon chain length, head group functionality, water solubility, and volatility), plant physiology (e.g., transpiration rate, lipid and protein content), and abiotic factors (e.g., soil organic matters, pH, salinity, and temperature). Based on literature analysis, the current knowledge gaps are identified, and future research prospects are suggested.


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