Development of Passive Sampling Methodologies for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP)
PhD student Rachel Mackie conducts sampling
PhD student Rachel Mackie collects samples

Widespread contamination of environmental waters by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has occurred from the historic use of aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs). QAEHS has developed novel passive samplers to improve our ability to measure PFAS in the environment and wastewater. The passive sampling tools and associated predictive uptake models provide a cost-effective quantitative technique, allowing reliable and sensitive, time integrative monitoring of a wide range of PFAS.

The passive sampling tools can be used to yield representative spatial contamination information supporting reliable prediction of plume movement and mass flux from contaminated sites. This can facilitate the study of PFAS fate and transport, including transformation to perfluoroalkyl acid (PFAA) precursors in aqueous environments.

Being time integrative, these samplers give a better understanding of exposures and ongoing loads of PFAS in dynamic systems, such as surface waters and wastewaters, than grab sampling.  This can be used to better understand risk to aquatic environments and ongoing PFAS loads, for example, into and out of wastewater treatment plants.

The monitoring tools developed were calibrated and validated at a range of Australian Defence and US Department of Defense sites and applied to surface, ground, and wastewater matrices.


Outcomes of this project include a suite of innovative passive sampling technologies that:

  • are validated for a wide range of chemicals and environments
  • provide equivalent sensitivity to grab sampling
  • provide time integrated concentration information to better understand impacts in dynamic systems
  • are appropriate for linking to analytical methods to identify PFAS of emerging concern.

We have also developed a set of good practice guidelines for the use and interpretation of passive sampler data.

The technology developed in this project has been used by industry and governments (state EPAs) in Australia and internationally to monitor PFAS concentrations.

Research Outputs

Ghorbani Gorji, S., Gómez Ramos, M.J., Dewapriya, P., Schulze, B., Mackie, R., Nguyen, T.M.H., Higgins, C.P., Bowles, K., Mueller, J.F., Thomas, K.V. and Kaserzon, S.L., 2024. New PFASs Identified in AFFF Impacted Groundwater by Passive Sampling and Nontarget Analysis. Environmental Science & Technology58(3), pp.1690-1699.

Beggs, C., Mackie, R., Vrana, B., Prokeš, R., Gorji, S.G., Schulze, B., Thomas, K.V., Mueller, J.F. and Kaserzon, S.L., 2023. Estimation of per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances mass loads in the Danube River using passive sampling. Science of the Total Environment, p.164458.

Gorji, S.G., Hawker, D.W., Mackie, R., Higgins, C.P., Bowles, K., Li, Y. and Kaserzon, S., 2023. Sorption affinity and mechanisms of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) with commercial sorbents: Implications for passive sampling. Journal of Hazardous Materials457, p.131688.

Charbonnet, J.A., McDonough, C.A., Xiao, F., Schwichtenberg, T., Cao, D., Kaserzon, S., Thomas, K.V., Dewapriya, P., Place, B.J., Schymanski, E.L. and Field, J.A., 2022. Communicating confidence of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substance identification via high-resolution mass spectrometry. Environmental science & technology letters9(6), pp.473-481.

Gardiner, C., Robuck, A., Becanova, J., Cantwell, M., Kaserzon, S., Katz, D., Mueller, J. and Lohmann, R., 2022. Field validation of a novel passive sampler for dissolved PFAS in surface waters. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry41(10), pp.2375-2385.

Kaserzon, S.L., Vijayasarathy, S., Bräunig, J., Mueller, L., Hawker, D.W., Thomas, K.V. and Mueller, J.F., 2019. Calibration and validation of a novel passive sampling device for the time integrative monitoring of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and precursors in contaminated groundwater. Journal of hazardous materials366, pp.423-431.

Kaserzon et al. 2018. Catchment and Drinking Water Quality Micro Pollutant Monitoring Program – Passive Sampling. Report 8 – Summer 2018. Report to Saqwater, Brisbane, Australia

Research Impact

This work has been funded by the US Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP ER20-1156) in collaboration with the Colorado School of Mines, Griffith University and Jacobs Australia. With contributions from the Australian Department of Defence, Brisbane Airport, Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES), EPA Victoria and Seqwater in Australia and a number of international organisations including NIVA (Norway), University of Barcelona (Spain) and KWR (The Netherlands). The tools developed have already been utilised by agencies worldwide to help PFAS investigation and monitoring efforts.

Project Materials


Project members

A/Prof Sarit Kaserzon

Co-Theme Leader, Environmental Health Risk Assessment

Prof Jochen Mueller

Theme Leader, Emerging Environmental Health Risks

Dr Sara Ghorbani Gorji

Research Fellow

Rachel Mackie

PhD Candidate

Prof Chris Higgins

Honorary Professor

Dr Karl Bowles

Adjunct Associate Professor