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University of Rhode Island

Superfund Research Program

Sources, Transport, Exposure & Effects of PFAS (STEEP) Center

Center Director: Rainer Lohmann
Grant Number: P42ES027706
Funding Period: 2017-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Summary (2022-2027)

PFAS have emerged as national priority pollutants, and more than 2000 sites contaminated by PFAS have been identified across the U.S., including 180 EPA-identified Superfund sites. Elevated human exposures to PFAS have been associated with adverse health outcomes, including metabolic disruption, immunotoxicity, and endocrine disruption, although exposure-dependence and individual vulnerability need to be better understood.

Building on the successful collaborative it established within the first grant cycle, University of Rhode Island (URI)-led STEEP (Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFAS) SRP Center will continue to further advance the science, training, engagement and outreach in support of SRP mandates. Researchers will continue to collaborate with state agencies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and with federal agencies, and will expand to work with state agencies in Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, and Michigan in support of their needs for knowledge on PFAS.

The environmental engineering and chemistry projects focus on the transport and transformation of PFAS precursors, as well as legacy, novel, and total PFAS. They developed and use novel detection tools support remediation of PFAS-contaminated groundwater, the atmospheric transport and fate of PFAS, and to predict bioaccumulation of PFAS relative to modeling predictions.

Building on their leading research on the critical effects of PFAS in children, with a focus on immunotoxicity and metabolism, and given the public health importance of breastfeeding, Center researchers will focus on understanding cellular mechanisms that dictate PFAS uptake and elimination into milk and accumulation in the infant, thereby advancing understanding of toxicokinetic mechanisms and potentials for preventing PFAS from reaching human milk.

Research projects, working with the Community Engagement Core (CEC) and the Data Management and Analysis Core (DMAC), will perform a thorough human exposure assessment for PFAS and risk assessment. STEEP trainees and mentors will remain key to the ongoing growth as a unified Center, via cross-cutting collaboration fostered by the Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC), and joint mentorship. The center also includes an additional focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training for trainees and mentors alike.

Together, the STEEP Center goals aim to: assess the distribution, transformations, and bioaccumulation of PFAS; investigate the processes affecting PFAS distribution and uptake and assess critical adverse effects in humans; engage new and established stakeholders across multiple sites; integrate STEEP internally and execute effective outreach and collaboration with stakeholders.

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