PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are a group of chemicals that have been widely used in manufacturing since the 1940s. They are commonly found in water/grease-resistant products such as non-stick cookware, food wrappers, household products, and clothing, as well as in fire-fighting foams, and industrial processes.
PFAS are known as a “forever chemical” because they do not break down in the environment. They can travel through air, soil, surface water, and groundwater, and can accumulate in people, wildlife, and aquatic life.
According to the EPA, health complications associated with PFAS exposure can include cancer, liver and kidney disease, reproductive issues, immunodeficiencies, and hormonal disruptions.
PFAS Update in NC
At the recent National PFAS conference, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser announced the formation of the DEQ Applied Research Fellowship in partnership with the North Carolina Collaboratory to address PFAS. CCRW Board Member and Duke University Associate Professor, Dr. Lee Ferguson, will serve as a 2022 fellow to assist DEQ with PFAS-related laboratory methods, data analysis, and field sampling, along with Dr. Jamie DeWitt from East Carolina University
“The Faculty Fellowship program is an outstanding collaboration between the NC Policy Collaboratory and the NC DEQ. It represents an opportunity for direct and substantive collaboration between academic researchers and state agency scientists and regulators, with the express goal of improving drinking water quality for all North Carolinians. The inaugural class of fellows includes internationally recognized leaders in the field of PFAS fate, effects, and analysis, and I’m honored to be included among these outstanding researchers. I look forward to working closely with Secretary Biser and her team in the fall as we strive to make NC’s drinking water the cleanest in the nation.”
-Dr. Lee Ferguson, Duke University Associate Professor, CCRW Board of Directors
In the field, students from the Duke University Engage program joined White Oak Waterkeeper, Becca, in sampling the White Oak River for PFAS in a new pilot program. CCRW is participating in this program through a partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance and Cyclopure. In this unprecedented initiative, over 130 US waterways will be tested for PFAS and posted to study reports.
CCRW will also be participating in PFAS monitoring and programming on the state level in collaboration with Waterkeepers Carolina.
To reduce impacts, try choosing alternatives to PFAS-contaning products. Advocate to your representatives for comprehensive water testing, legislative action and enforcement of PFAS sources, investment in research, technologies, and treatment.