Superfund Research Program

September 2019

Jitka Becanova, Ph.D., standing in front of her poster

Becanova, one of the 2018 K.C. Donnelly Externship Award winners, presents a poster of her SRP-funded research.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from around the country gathered August 12 – 15 to discuss per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry's North America Focused Topic Meeting in Durham, North Carolina.

Several SRP trainees presented posters on their research, including Anna Robuck and Jitka Becanova, Ph.D., of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Sources, Transport, Exposure, and Effects of PFAS (STEEP) SRP Center. Robuck's poster described her work to characterize PFAS profiles in seabirds to better understand how and which PFAS are accumulating in wildlife. Becanova described the development of passive samplers, designed with the unique capability of detecting PFAS in both air and water.

Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., and Heather Henry, Ph.D., standing in front of their poster

Heacock, left, and Henry, right, highlighted diverse research from SRP grantees around the country.
(Photo courtesy of Michelle Heacock)

During the poster session, SRP Health Scientist Administrators Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., and Heather Henry, Ph.D., promoted new tools and technologies the program's researchers are developing to characterize PFAS in the environment and to remove PFAS from water, soil, and sediment. They also featured work from SRP grantees who are examining how PFAS may harm human health. Finally, they highlighted activities wherein SRP-funded centers are sharing research findings and information on PFAS to communities that may be affected by PFAS exposure.

Jennifer Guelfo, Ph.D., of Texas Tech University and the Brown University SRP Center, presented her research and discussed the challenges of characterizing the vast number of different PFAS compounds. She is working to discern how to prioritize PFAS based on sources and pathways of exposure. Along a similar line of inquiry, Elsie Sunderland, Ph.D., of Harvard University and the URI STEEP SRP Center, chaired a session on exposure assessment for PFAS. Understanding where PFAS are found in the environment is the first step in understanding how people and animals encounter them. This information, in turn, helps researchers conduct risk assessments and determine ways to protect health.