Model-based analysis of the uptake of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) from soil into plants

Andrea Gredelj*, Fabio Polesel, Stefan Trapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) bioaccumulate in crops, with uptake being particularly high for short-chain PFAAs that are constantly transported with transpiration water to aerial plant parts. Due to their amphiphilic surfactant nature and ionized state at environmental pH, predicting the partitioning behavior of PFAAs is difficult and subject to considerable uncertainty, making experimental data highly desirable. Here, we applied a plant uptake model that combines advective flux with measured partition coefficients to reproduce the set of empirically derived plant uptake and soil-partitioning data for nine PFAAs in red chicory, in order to improve the mechanistic understanding and provide new insights into the complex uptake processes. We introduced a new parameter for retarded uptake (R) to explain the slow transfer of PFAA across biomembranes of the root epidermis, which has led to low transpiration stream concentration factors (TSCFs) presented in literature so far. We estimated R values for PFAAs using experimental data derived for red chicory and used the modified plant uptake model to simulate uptake of PFAA into other crops. Results show that this semi-empirical model predicted PFAAs transport to shoots and fruits with good accuracy based on experimental root to soil concentration factors (RCFdw) and soil to water partition coefficients (Kd) as well as estimated R values and plant-specific data for growth and transpiration. It can be concluded that the combination of rather low Kd with high RCFdw and the absence of any relevant loss are the reason for the observed excellent plant uptake of PFAAs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125534
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Plant uptake
  • PFOS
  • PFOA
  • Membrane permeability
  • Exposure assessment
  • Transpiration stream

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