Tracking Fluorine during Aqueous Photolysis and Advanced UV Treatment of Fluorinated Phenols and Pharmaceuticals Using a Combined 19F-NMR, Chromatography, and Mass Spectrometry Approach

Akash P. Bhat, Thomas F. Mundhenke, Quinn Whiting, Alicia A. Peterson, William C.K. Pomerantz, Bill Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Fluorine incorporation into organic molecules has increased due to desirable changes in the molecular physiochemical properties. Common fluorine motifs include: aliphatic fluorines and -CF3, or -F containing groups bonded directly onto an aromatic (Ar-CF3 and Ar-F) or heteroaromatic ring. Photolysis of these compounds, either in natural or engineered systems, is a potential source of new fluorinated byproducts. Given the potential persistence and toxicity of fluorinated byproducts, monitoring of product formation during photolysis of various fluorinated motifs is needed. 19F-NMR is a means to detect and quantify these species. Ar-CF3 and Ar-F model compounds (2-, 3-, and 4-(trifluoromethyl)phenol, 2-, 3-, 4-fluorophenol, and 2,6-, 3,5-difluorophenol) were photolyzed under a variety of aqueous conditions: pH 5, pH 7, pH 10, 1 mM H2O2 at pH 7 to form �OH, and 0.5 mM SO32- at pH 10 to form eaq-. Pharmaceuticals with the Ar-CF3 (fluoxetine) and Ar-F plus pyrazole-CF3 (sitagliptin) motifs were treated similarly. Parent molecule concentrations were monitored with high pressure liquid chromatography with a UV detector. Fluorine in the parent and product molecules was quantified with 19F-NMR and complete fluorine mass balances were obtained. High resolution mass spectrometry was used to further explore product identities. The major product for Ar-F compounds was fluoride. The Ar-CF3 model compounds led to fluoride and organofluorine products dependent on motif placement and reaction conditions. Trifluoroacetic acid was a product of 4-(trifluoromethyl)phenol and fluoxetine. Additional detected fluoxetine products identified using mass spectrometry resulted from addition of -OH to the aromatic ring, but a dealkylation product could not be distinguished from fluoxetine by 19F-NMR. Sitagliptin formed multiple products that all retained the pyrazole-CF3 motif while the Ar-F motif produced fluoride. 19F-NMR, mass spectrometry, and chromatography methods provide complementary information on the formation of fluorinated molecules by modification or fragmentation of the parent structure during photolysis, allowing screening for fluorinated photoproducts and development of fluorine mass balances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Environmental Au
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and by a graduate fellowship to A.P.B. from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering. Thanks to Jiaqian Li for help finalizing the NMR conditions and Samuel Lombardo for running preliminary experiments. We thank the Minnesota NMR Center for access to instrumentation. Funding for NMR instrumentation was provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Medical School, the College of Biological Science, NIH, NSF, and the Minnesota Medical Foundation. Thanks to Peter Villalta, Yingchun Zhao, and Jingfang Huang at the analytical biochemistry mass spectrometry services shared resource at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota for the help with LC-MS/MS instrumentation.

Publisher Copyright:


  • F-NMR
  • mass balance
  • mass spectrometry
  • oxidation
  • pharmaceuticals
  • photolysis
  • reduction


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