Team 5C lab in action during flow cytometry sequence (photo by Jamie DeWitt)
NC PFAST Network News April 2019
FROM THE DIRECTOR
Dear NC PFAS Testing Network Colleagues,
I hope this message finds you well. With the end of academic year approaching, I know many of us are very busy with wrapping up teaching, grading final exams, etc. so we appreciate your recent responses to our communications. I want to use this message to highlight a few upcoming events I feel are important to the Network. I also want to share the good news that the PFAST Network website is live in case you haven’t already seen ithttp://ncpfastnetwork.com.
During the next several months, Wanda Bodnar and I will start making lab visits. We want to use this visit to get a sense of how things are going in your labs, review protocols and QA/QC practices, meet students and post docs working on Network projects, and to hear about your preliminary results. Manal Khan from the program management team will likely reach out via email to schedule these lab visits.
I also want to bring to your attention (and remind you) that we have an upcoming Risk Communications Training and Data Management Meeting (details were shared in previous emails) on Monday, May 20th in Chapel Hill. The Risk Communications and Data Management Teams are organizing this event and we will share the agenda once they finalize it. The intent of the risk communications training is to get everyone comfortable with communicating their scientific results with various stakeholders. The data management part of the meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss/fine tune data needs and become more familiar with the data submission process and plans. Attendance is strongly encouraged.
Another important upcoming event is the public forum on “Emerging PFAS Contaminants in the Cape Fear Region: University Collaborations on Environmental, Drinking Water and Health Effects” at the Fisher Student Center at UNC-Wilmington on Friday, May 31st. This event will provide a public conversation about the NC PFAST Network, define PFAS and why they matter to NC residents and visitors, and demonstrate the collaboration for this initiative among 7 universities across NC. For more information and to register for the forum clickhere.
Many folks should already be aware of the great work that Dr. Scott Belcher (NCSU) has been doing on research affiliated with the Network (Team 5B) to test alligator and striped bass PFAS levels. Check out a news article that was recently published summarizing some of his intriguing findings here. Great stuff Scott!
Finally, the program management team and I would like to remind you all to let us know of upcoming events that you will be presenting at that leverages funding from the Network. We can keep promoting the good work everyone is doing from the Network if you share the information with us. Also, if you know of events/meetings that will be of interest to the larger group, please keep sharing them with us so that we can also help spread the word.
Thanks again and we look forward to seeing you at upcoming events.
Best Wishes, Jason Surratt, PhD
Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Gillings School of Global Public Health
NOTE: We have added as many PFAST Network researchers (PIs, post-docs, other scientists and students) to this listserv as we could. Feel free to forward this to anyone we missed and let us know if someone should be added.
April Monthly Progress Report – due April 29th
Quarter 3 Financial Report – due May 6th Science Communications Training – May 20th
Wilmington PFAS Public Forum – May 31st
PFAST Network Science Meeting – Aug 9th
Meet a Network Scientist
SAM VANCE, ECU (Team 5C) Can you provide background information about yourself?
I was born and raised on a small farm in rural North Carolina right outside of the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, I went on to attend East Carolina University and get my Bachelors in Neuroscience and I am currently completing my master’s degree in toxicology at Brody School of Medicine. Growing up between military base Wilmington NC the story of GenX in the Cape Fear close to home for me, quite literally. Both are major sources of PFAS contaminants and thus have spurred on my focus in this field of research.
How did you get involved in the PFAST Network? What are you doing?
I began working as an undergrad in the lab of Dr. Jamie DeWitt studying aqueous film forming foams or AFFF, a PFAS cocktail used for fighting high intensity fires such as those on military bases and air fields. After the GenX story broke, I joined her lab to pursue my masters studying this family of emerging PFAS’s. My current focus is on perfluoro-2-methoxyacetic acid (PFMOAA) which has no current toxicity data in the literature and very little data on exposure levels. What we do know is that it was found in some of the highest concentrations in the Cape Fear River waters and downstream communities of any of the identified contaminants. We are working on building a toxicological profile of PFMOAA and the other PFAS contaminants.
Which people in your field have been most influential to you and your career?
Without a doubt Dr. DeWitt has been the most influential person in my academic career, she has been an amazing mentor going on 4 years now and is the person who got me started in scientific research. She’s taught me everything I know and continues to guide and push me towards success.
What major future research questions do you hope to address (PFAS related or otherwise)?
I am just trying play my part in characterizing the toxicity of these new emerging PFAS’s as rapidly as possible to make sure the people in my local community get the protection they deserve. As for future goals, whatever path I take, be it in medicine or research, I want to be improving the welfare of rural farming and fishing communities like my own hometown.
PFAS Article Highlight
Plasma Concentrations of Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Investigation among U.S. Women Qi Sun, Geng Zong, Damaskini Valvi, Flemming Nielsen, Brent Coull, and Philippe Grandjean Environmental Health Perspectives, 2018;126(3):037001-1 – 037001-10 https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP2619
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Southern Denmark report findings from their analysis of the associations between PFAS exposures and incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) in female participants of the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII).
The authors conducted a prospective nested case-control study of U.S. female nurses to investigate their hypothesis that higher PFAS plasma concentrations are associated with higher T2D risk. In addition, they looked at demographic and lifestyle factors as potential determinants of plasma PFAS concentrations in this population. They analyzed questionnaire data and blood samples collected during 1995-2011.
Plasma concentrations were measured using on-line solid phase extraction coupled with LC-MS/MS for the targeted quantitation of five major PFAS compounds having >99% detection rate in the population: perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS); perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); perfluoro-hexanesulfonate (PFHxS); perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA); and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA). Additional PFAS detected at lower frequency and with higher measurement errors were also reported. Plasma markers of T2D were also measured and included: hemoglobin A1; total cholesterol; triacylglycerol; total adiponectin; and fasting insulin. Participants completed a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (SFFQ) every four years, and this data was used to estimate nutrient intake and to derive an alternative healthy eating index (AHEI) score to evaluate overall quality of diet. The score summarizes consumption of 11 foods and nutrients most predictive of chronic disease risk.
Associations between plasma PFAS concentrations and T2D risk were evaluated using conditional logistic regression with models adjusted for the matching factors (used to define case-control pairs). They also controlled for predictors of PFAS concentrations and/or known risk factors of T2D such as: family history of diabetes; oral contraceptive use; breastfeeding status; number children delivered; state of residence; smoking status; alcohol intake; baseline BMI; and AHEI score. The results showed that age and BMI were not found to be significant predictors of PFAS concentrations, and that shorter breastfeeding duration and higher intake of seafood and popcorn were significantly associated with higher plasma concentrations in control subjects. After multivariate adjustment for T2D risk factors, higher plasma concentrations of PFOS and PFOA were found to be associated with elevated risk of T2D, while no clear association was observed for the other PFAS measured.
While there is mixed evidence in the literature regarding associations between PFAS exposures and diabetes risk, this study concluded that for U.S. nurses without known occupational exposures to PFAS in the late 1990s, there were significant associations between higher baseline levels of plasma PFAS (especially PFOS and PFOA) and an increased T2D risk, supporting a potential diabetogenic effect of some PFAS compounds and highlighting the need for additional mechanistic studies.
UPCOMING WEBINAR (2pm on May 2nd): Applying Read-Across for PFAS
California EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment will host a workshop and webinar “Understanding and Applying Read-Across for Human Health Risk Assessment.” There are three sessions with presentations from a range of U.S. research and regulatory agencies, and one session (starting at 11am PST/2pm EST) will focus specifically on read-across principles for PFAS substances. More information, including the webcast link and agenda, can be found here.
UPCOMING CONFERENCE (May 21-22nd): 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference
The conference in Illinois will feature presentations and posters on the latest in emerging contaminant research, policies, and outreach. This year the conference will expand beyond the aquatic environment to also include air and soil studies along with effects on human and animal health. More information can be found here.
ADDRESSING GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATED BY PFOA AND PFOS EPA is seeking public comment on a draft set of recommendations for cleaning up groundwater contaminated with PFOA and PFOS (two ‘legacy’ PFAS). The final recommendations will provide a starting point for making site-specific cleanup decisions. More information, as well as links for public comment can be found here. RELATED: Read New York Times overview of the guidance “E.P.A. Proposes Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Drinking Water” here.
PRESENTATION TO NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Researchers from the PFAST Network attended a special April 2019 meeting of the House Committee on the Environment to update lawmakers and answer questions on PFAST Network activities addressing the state's legislative mandate for PFAS testing and research. A summary of the event and topics discussed can be found here.
U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS HEARING: Examining the Federal Response to the Risks Associated with PFAS Substances
The hearing in late March included witness testimonies on ongoing PFAS activities and plans by federal agencies including the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Department of Defense and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. A full recording of the hearing is available here.
WHQR:NC Legislature Considering PFAS Ban In Firefighting Foam(Apr 4)
A bipartisan House Bill 560 filed in the state legislature earlier this month would ban PFAS and other perfluorinated compounds from the firefighting (aqueous film forming) foams used near airports and in industrial areas around the state. Read more here.
Chemical & Engineering News:The hunt is on for GenX chemicals in people (Apr 7)
Analysis of a cohort of Wilmington area residents’ blood tested for PFAS by NCSU scientists has yielded surprising results. The study found no detectable HFPO-DA, which is the GenX chemical, in participants’ blood based on a 2 parts per billion detection limit (researchers routinely measure PFAS in water in parts per trillion). It did find historically used PFAS in the blood, as well as newer PFAS chemicals little is known about (such as their health and toxicology effects). Read more here.
Consumer Reports: Should You Be Concerned About PFAS Chemicals? (Apr 8)
Consumer Report’s chief scientific officer says “CR has investigated the issue of chemical exposure for 80 plus years. PFAS and similar compounds have emerged as significant potential risks that should be mitigated.” Th many PFAS unknowns include whether the PFAS in use today are more or less harmful than the older (legacy) ones that were used in the past and have more scientific data and regulations compared to the newer ones. Read more here.
StarNews: Wilmington-area gators, fish show high levels of contaminants (Apr 9)
NCSU researchers led by Network scientist Scott Belcher (Team 5B) found alligators and striped bass in the Wilmington area have levels of PFAS many times higher than their counterparts elsewhere in the state. The high levels of PFAS discovered are likely harming wildlife around the polluted areas. The team is now researching whether the PFAS are affecting the immune systems or liver functions of these animals (these endpoints have also been identified in humans). Read more here.
NPR: Scientists Dig Into Hard Questions About The Fluorinated Pollutants Known As PFAS (Apr 22)
Scientists across the country are ramping up research on PFAS chemicals as little is known about how most types of PFAS effect humans and there is no nationwide legal safety limit. Read more here. RELATED: Waste Management and Research journal has an informative overview of the ‘Challenges associated with a family of ubiquitous emergent chemicals (PFAS) here.
Publications and Other Research
Journal of Cleaner Production (Apr 2019): Highly fluorinated chemicals in functional textiles can be replaced by re-evaluating liquid repellency and end-user requirements
Steffen Schellenberger, Philippa Hill, Oscar Levenstam, Philip Gillgard, Ian Cousins, Mark Taylor, and Richard Blackburn https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.01.160
Water Research (Apr 2019): The influence of molecular structure on the adsorption of PFAS to fluid-fluid interfaces: Using QSPR to predict interfacial adsorption coefficients
Mark L. Brusseau https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2018.12.057
Analytica Chimica Acta (Apr 2019): Novel non-targeted analysis of perfluorinated compounds using fluorine-specific detection regardless of their ionisability (HPLC-ICPMS/MS-ESI-MS)
Nor Laili Azua Jamari, Jan Frederik Dohmann, Andrea Raab, Eva M. Krupp, and Jӧrg Feldmann https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aca.2018.11.037
Environmental Science & Technology (Apr 2019): Defluorination of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) with Hydrated Electrons: Structural Dependence and Implications to PFAS Remediation and Management
Michael J. Bentel, Yaochun Yu, Lihua Xu, Zhong Li, Bryan M. Wong, Yujie Men, and Jinyong Liu https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.8b06648
Environmental Science & Technology Letters (Apr 2019): Reaction of Condensed-Phase Criegee Intermediates with Carboxylic Acids and Perfluoroalkyl Carboxylic Acids
Shouming Zhou, Shira Joudan, Matthew W. Forbes, Zilin Zhou, and Jonathan P. D. Abbatt https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.9b00165