Perfluoroalkyl substances in the Yangtze River: Changing exposure and its implications after operation of the Three Gorges Dam
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Potential ecological risk from perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) under changing exposure in large river systems has become a new challenge recently. Based on systematic monitoring of PFASs at 43 hydrologic stations along a 4300 km continuum of the Yangtze River, we investigated the ecological risk of PFASs under changing exposure resulting from operation of the Three Gorges Dam (TGD). Importantly, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was found extensively exposed in most mainstream water samples, accounting for about 90% of the total content of PFASs in both spring and autumn, while short-chain PFASs contributed more than PFOA in sediment. The significant inversion of long-chain PFASs occurrence from sediment to water reflected a profound change in exposure due to loss of finer sediments resulting from long-distance and long-term scour of the riverbed downstream of the TGD. The coarsening of bed materials would weaken sorption of long-chain PFASs in sediments and enhance their exposure in water, resulting in substantial increase of ecological risk to representative aquatic organisms. In the long term, particular attention should be paid to reduction of PFOA discharge to downstream of the TGD from typical industries. This also highlights the significance of huge dams to alternative exposures of persistent organic pollutants and the necessity of new strategy for ecological risk management of large river systems.
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