Standley, L.J., and T.L. Bott. 1998. Environmental Science and Technology 32:469–475.
Aquatic organisms were monitored for their ability to incorporate trifluoroacetate (TFA), an atmospheric breakdown product of HFC and HCFC refrigerants containing a trifluoromethyl moiety. Because of the structural similarity of TFA to acetate, a biochemical intermediate and microbial nutrient, we suspected that organisms might use the fluorinated compound to synthesize biomolecules such as lipids and acetylated proteins. We exposed aquatic organisms (microbial communities, oligochaetes, macroinvertebrates, Callitriche sp., Lemna sp., and Impatiens capensis) to radioactive TFA ([14C]F3COOH) and examined them for distribution of radiolabel in different classes of biomolecules. The most label was found in oligochaetes and I. capensis leaves at 3 and 6 μg/g (as TFA), respectively, with the greatest proportion found in the protein fraction for each sample type. Aerobic microorganisms incorporated only a small fraction of the label (a few nanograms per gram as TFA), and the greatest proportion of label occurred in cell wall material. We have demonstrated that selected aquatic organisms spanning a range of trophic levels incorporated the xenobiotic TFA into their biomolecule fractions so that it was no longer extracted as TFA and thus was metabolically transformed.