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University of Kentucky

Superfund Research Program

Extent of PFAS Contamination Resulting from a Fire at a Hazardous Waste Incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio

Project Leader: Erin Haynes
Grant Number: R21ES035322
Funding Period: 2023-2025
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)


On June 27, 2022, a hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, an environmental justice community, caught fire. The incinerator is one of only eight receiving per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for incineration and received the most shipments in the past year. PFAS, referred to as "forever chemicals", represent a large group of synthetic chemicals, including PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and encompass approximately 5000 different compounds. PFAS exposure has been linked with toxic health effects and the consequences of PFAS incineration, including the potential of incomplete combustion, are currently unknown. Due to a longstanding, over 10-year, community-academic partnership with the community, the research team had recently characterized PFAS in soil surrounding the incinerator, thereby providing the research team with a unique opportunity to determine the impact of the fire on PFAS contamination and the extent of this contamination throughout the community. Through the research team's ongoing research partnerships, they have immediate access to recruiting families in the community to participate in successfully accomplish the following time-sensitive specific aims: Aim 1: Characterize post-fire PFAS soil concentrations at the same locations as previously collected and identify geospatial patterns in concentrations to discern differences pre- and post-fire. Aim 2: Determine the extent of PFAS exposure in the community by measuring PFAS in residential soil, drinking water, household dust, and blood samples from individuals who live in close proximity to the incinerator to begin to identify the route of exposure to PFAS exposure in the community. Aim 3: Engage the community throughout the process. The research team is working through their existing partnerships to inform residents of the study, host community meetings, and provide report-back materials to both community and individuals. The researchers is also developing a website to keep the community informed about the process.

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