The photodegradation of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in water using two types of low-pressure mercury lamps, one emitting 254 nm and the other emitting 254 nm and 185 nm, by use of persulfate (K2S2O8) as an oxidant was investigated. PFOA was significantly decomposed under irradiation of 185 nm light, while it was very slow and negligible under 254 nm light irradiation. This was due to its strong absorption of PFOA from deep UV-region to 220 nm and a weak absorption from 220–460 nm. The addition of K2S2O8 led to efficient PFOA decomposition and defluorination no matter what light irradiation. Sulfate radical anion (SO4), generated by photolysis of K2S2O8, initiated the oxidation of PFOA. Under irradiation of 185 nm light, PFOA was jointly decomposed through 185 nm light photolysis and initiation of sulfate radical. However, under irradiation of 254 nm light, PFOA decomposition was only initiated by sulfate radical. PFOA decomposed and defluorinated much faster under oxygen atmosphere than under nitrogen atmosphere, which suggested that oxygen molecules played an important role in PFOA decomposition.

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