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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of Rhode Island

Superfund Research Program

Exposure Assessment and Chemometrics of PFASs

Project Leader: Elsie M. Sunderland (Harvard School of Public Health)
Grant Number: P42ES027706
Funding Period: 2017-2022
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

More than 600 sites across the U.S. are contaminated by poly and perfluroalkyl substances (PFASs) but the extent of transport away from these sites and entry into human exposure pathways (drinking water and fish) is virtually unknown. This information is critical for assessing human health risks associated with exposures to PFASs from contaminated sites, such as the metabolic and immune outcomes that are being investigated in other projects within the University of Rhode Island-led Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFASs (STEEP) Superfund Research Program Center.

This project is measuring a suite of PFASs present in drinking water and fish near the Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC), a region contaminated by historical fire training activity and designated as a National Priorities List site. For Aim 1, novel statistical methods are being used to fingerprint profiles of PFASs measured in fish and drinking water around the JBCC site. PFAS profiles in drinking water and fish are being compared to those from consumer products (wastewater influent) to identify exposures originating from contaminated sites. For Aim 2, researchers are leveraging long-term research by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) near the JBCC site characterizing hydrological flow paths and groundwater geochemistry to better understand how environmental factors influence the transport and transformations of PFASs away from contaminated sites and into drinking water supplies.

One of the major expected outcomes of this work is a better understanding of the spatial extent of elevated PFAS concentrations in fish and drinking water from contaminated sites, which will allow improved characterization of exposed populations and risks. This project is providing a novel contribution at the nexus between geochemistry and health by linking the geochemical factors affecting PFAS transport and mobility to human health risks associated with exposure. To do this, the researchers are using field measurements and passive sampler deployment to better understand the transport, transformation and bioaccumulation of PFASs. For Aim 3, the team is investigating pathways for uptake of PFASs in contaminated groundwater in surface waters that contain fish. Researchers are assessing toxicological biomarkers for immune and metabolic responses in exposed fish.

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