Legislative panel at recent PFAS symposium, a collaboration between PFAST Network and Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative (photo by Manal Khan)
NC PFAST Network News               October 2019

 Dear PFAS Testing Network Colleagues,
Happy Fall! It seems Halloween was a great day for the Network as the NC General Assembly (NCGA) unanimously passed a conference report for S433, which contains an extension for the NC PFAST Network through October 15, 2020. While there is
no additional money in this bill for the Network, the extension provides the time needed to complete two more rounds of water sampling and analysis and to satisfactorily wrap up individual projects. We sincerely thank everyone for your hard work and dedication and appreciate your contributions thus far to the final report. The new deadline for our final report to the State is October 15, 2020, however the original language in the legislative mandate still applies. Therefore, we will continue to submit quarterly reports to the NCGA, with the next one due January 1, 2020.  For teams that are still completing research, we will continue to require monthly scientific reporting and quarterly financial reporting. Final reports from all teams must now be received by the PMT by September 15, 2020, giving us 1 month to compile the final report. If you have any questions on these changes above, please do not hesitate to contact us. The PMT and I would like to sincerely thank Dr. Jeffrey Warren for his leadership in facilitating our extension request with representatives from the NCGA. 
Additionally, I want to greatly thank the NC PFAST Risk Communications Team for their leadership and effort in co-organizing and sponsoring the 2019 Environmental Health Summit with the Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative. This event represented our NC PFAST Network Fall Symposium and was held on October 23-24, 2019 to focus on “PFAS: Integrating Science and Solutions in North Carolina.” Many thanks to all of our researchers who presented at this meeting or participated in the breakout sessions. I think this was a highly productive and successful meeting and I was happy to see many of us interacting with the public, our colleagues from government agencies, and policymakers! It is important to highlight for everyone that it was shared at this event that Team 1 has completed the first round of baseline water sampling across the state and have now started round two! I want to congratulate Professors Lee Ferguson and Detlef Knappe, as well as their research teams (including Team 7 for help in planning routes), for completing this major milestone. This was a huge team effort!
Lastly, I would like to recognize that our PFAST Network researchers are in high demand and are frequently delivering presentations and meeting with key stakeholders upon request without hesitation! A few examples from this month include:
  • Webinar for science educators titled: “PFAS: What are they and how are NC scientists investigating their prevalence in the Environment and their potential impacts humans and wildlife?” Thank you to Megan Rodgers, Manal Khan, and Dana Haine for organizing, and to Wanda Bodnar, Jamie DeWitt and Scott Belcher for presenting!
  • Information exchange meeting with partners from the NC DEQ Divisions of Water Resources, Air Quality, and Waste Management. Thank you Drs. Jeff Warren, Detlef Knappe, Lee Ferguson, and Wanda Bodnar for participating!
  • Public forum organized by the Haw River Assembly to address the issue of contaminated drinking water in the town of Pittsboro. The event was well attended with over 200 participants.  Haw Riverkeeper Emily Sutton moderated the panel discussion featuring Drs.Detlef Knappe, Heather Stapleton, and Jackie Bangma along with representatives from NC DHHS and NC DEQ.
  • The UNC Tarheel bus tour 2019 included a stop in Wilmington where participants enjoyed hearing about the research activities of the PFAST Network. Many thanks to Dr. Jeff Warren for organizing and to Drs. Detlef Knappe, Ralph Mead, and Wanda Bodnar for their presentations. 
Thank you all for helping to promote the NC PFAST Network through events such as ones listed above. Please remember to directly contact Team 7 if you have final QA/QC data that you want to upload to the Database on the PFAST Network website. We hope everyone has a great November! 

Most sincerely,

Jason Surratt, PhD
Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Gillings School of Global Public Health
UNC-Chapel Hill
Network Bulletin
October Monthly Progress Report - due Nov 1
Quarterly 5 Financial Report - due Nov 8th
Quarterly Report to NC Legislature - due Jan 1st

Meet a Network Scientist


Can you provide background information about yourself?
After completing my undergraduate studies in biology, I worked for many years investigating regulatory T-cell responses to chronic infections.  I took a break from lab work to start a family which gave me time to realize that I was most passionate about studying the fate and transport of environmental contaminants.  Last May, I graduated from the Environmental Assessment Masters program at NCSU and I am now taking GIS courses towards the completion of the GIS certificate.

How did you get involved in the PFAST Network? What are you doing?
I took several GIS courses during my EA masters and noticed that there is a huge potential to use GIS in analyzing and communicating environmental data.  Therefore, I was excited to join Dr. Mitasova’s PFAST Network team late last winter.  We are working with the other network teams to gather accurate sampling site locations in order to map their PFAS concentration data.  Also, we have created a routing plan for sampling NC drinking water sources and generated a detailed stream network, digital elevation model and aquifer layers of the area surrounding the Chemours property.

Which people in your field have been most influential to you and your career?
I have worked with many talented people but Dr. Yasmine Belkaid and Dr. Kristina Howard have been wonderful mentors and friends to me throughout the years.

What major future research questions do you hope to address (PFAS related or otherwise)?
I would like to study the spatial distribution of PFAS in surface water and groundwater.  Identifying patterns in the distribution could help identify additional sources and guide remediation efforts.


PFAS Article Highlight

Fate of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Ether Acids in the Total Oxidizable Precursor Assay and Implications for the Analysis of Impacted Water
Chuhui Zhang, Zachary R. Hopkins, James McCord, Mark J. Strynar, and Detlef R. U. Knappe
Environmental Science & Technology Letters (2019) Article ASAP
Published online October 7, 2019

North Carolina Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS) Testing Network investigator Dr. Detlef Knappe and his graduate student researchers at NC State University teamed up with colleagues from the US EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory to investigate the fate of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Ether Acids (PFEAs) in a Total Oxidizable Precursor (TOP) Assay.  This assay was developed and optimized to indirectly quantify unknown Perfluoroalkyl Acid (PFAA) precursors, which upon chemical oxidation, form terminal products such as perfluoroalkyl carboxylic or sulfonic acids (PFCA or PFSA).  With the gradual phase-out of the PFCA legacy compounds PFOA and PFOS, industries are turning to shorter chain replacement PFEAs hoping to avoid the potential adverse health and ecological effects believed to be associated with exposure to legacy PFAS.  In addition to replacement compounds, by-products of the fluoropolymer manufacturing processes are also being detected now in environmental samples, and little is known about their reactivity.  In the present study, the authors utilized the TOP assay to examine the potential transformation of 25 individual PFAS representing per- and polyfluoroalkyl, mono- and multi-ether, carboxylic and sulfonic acids.  Samples were desalted and concentrated by Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) prior to analysis by liquid chromatography high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS), and authenticated chemical standards were used to determine the identity and quantity of PFAS oxidation products.  The researchers observed that both the mono-ether and the multi-ether PFECAs were stable (highly resistant to chemical oxidation) in the TOP assay, and that branched chain PFAS isomers behaved similarly to the linear forms.  They also evaluated two polyfluoroalkyl ether sulfonic acids (Nafion by product 2 and NVHOS), two polyfluoroalkyl ether carboxylic acids (ADONA, HydroEve), and one chlorofluoroalkyl ether sulfonic acid (F-53B) which are replacement PFAS that have been identified as emerging contaminants in environmental samples.  Although the PFOS alternative F-53B was found to be stable in the TOP assay, the PFOA replacement ADONA was oxidized to linear chain PFMOPrA, and the other 3 PFEAs were also oxidized to terminal PFCA or PFSA products.  Based on their initial results, the team modified the analytical method to incorporate these additional compounds not typically targeted in the TOP assay.  Archived surface water samples previously collected from the Cape Fear River downstream of a fluorochemical manufacturing site were subjected to the TOP assay using both the standard and expanded analyte lists, and the results confirmed that Nafion by product2, NVHOS, and Hydro Eve were all oxidized in the TOP assay, while the detected PFECAs were all stable.  This research highlights the importance of including PFEAs in the TOP assay and targeted analysis for more comprehensive characterization of the occurrence of PFAS, their precursors, and by products.


*NETWORK RESEARCHERS’ WEBINAR (1pm EST on Nov 13th): Latest Mass Spectrometry-based Trends for Identifying and Quantifying Unknown PFAS Compounds
PFAST Network scientist Lee Ferguson (Team 1) and others from his lab will discuss a Thermo Scientific™ Orbitrap™ Mass Spectrometer-based method, which captures more meaningful data to demystify unknown PFAS compounds. Additionally, a triple-quadrupole MS method will be discussed to describe how it achieves desired limits of detection for identified PFAS compounds. More information and registration link can found here.

Reminder: UPCOMING LOCAL MEETING (Dec 5th): PFAS and Other Emerging Contaminants Update Workshop
This Ground Water Professionals of NC meeting will focus on topics related to emerging contaminants and provide an update on PFAS and Gen-X in NC. You can now register here.

UPCOMING CONFERENCE/WEBCAST (Dec 4-5th): PFAS in California: Past, Present, and Future
California State Water Resources Control Board is hosting a two-day seminar and concurrent Datathon. Topics will include PFAS chemistry and toxicology, site investigation challenges, remedial technologies, product stewardship, and case studies. Speakers invited include representatives from EPA, Department of Toxics Substances Control, Department of Defense, resarchers and others and others. Registration and other information can be found here.

UPCOMING SYMPOSIUM (Jan 22nd): PFAS in Water, Soil, Sediments, Fish & Brownfield
The Mid-Atlantic States Section of the Air & Waste Management Association is organizing this event to cover PFAS state guidelines, occurrence in the drinking, surface water, sediments, soil, and fish, sampling, remediation and brownfield redevelopment. Agenda and registration can be found here.

News Roll

Consumer Reports: To Reduce PFAS Levels in Food, Cook at Home (Oct 9)
According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, people who frequently eat meals prepared at home have lower levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood compared to those who often eat fast food, takeout, or restaurant meals. . This news article also lists recommendations to reduce PFAS exposure in food: Read more here.

Bloomberg Law: Chemours Accused of Misleading Investors on PFAS Liabilities (Oct 9)
According to a new class action lawsuit filed in federal court by a pension fund for Boston electricians, Chemours Co. owes its investors hundreds of millions of dollars for concealing the true extent of its PFAS liabilities. Unsealed legal filings reveal Chemours significantly understated its potential environmental liabilities to shareholders. The company apparently told investors it had accrued several hundred million dollars to prepare for PFAS lawsuits but this summer the public learned that Chemours actually estimates its potential PFAS liability at $2.5 billion. Read more here.

Intercept: U.S. Toxicologist Was Barred From Saying PFAS Cause Disease in Humans. She’s Saying It Now. (Oct 24)
PFAS cause multiple health problems in people, according to Linda Birnbaum, the newly retired director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. This may not surprise those who are familiar with the thousands of scholarly articles linking specific PFAS to hundreds of health effects, but Birnbaum says she was not allowed to use the word “cause” when referring to the health effects from PFAS or other chemicals and instead had to use the word ‘association.’ Birnbaum, who has studied PFAS compounds for decades, believes “PFAS cause health effects because you have the same kind of effects reported in multiple studies in multiple populations." Read more here.
Publications and Other Research
Environmental Science and Technology Letters (Jul 2019): Accumulation of PFOA and PFOS at the Air–Water Interface
Jed Costanza, Masoud Arshadi, Linda M. Abriola, and Kurt D. Pennell
Environmental Epidemiology (Oct 2019): Pregnancy per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and maternal glucose intolerance
E Preston, S Rifas-Shiman, A, Zota, E, Oken, M Hivert, S Sagiv, A Calafat, X Ye, and T James-Todd

Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology (Oct 2019): Themed issues on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
Lutz Ahrens, Jonathan P. Benskin, Ian T. Cousins, Michelle Crimi, and Christopher P. Higgins
Environmental Science and Technology Letters (Oct 2019): A Machine Learning Approach for Predicting Defluorination of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) for Their Efficient Treatment and Removal
Jed Costanza, Masoud Arshadi, Linda M. Abriola, and Kurt D. Pennell Akber Raza, Sharmistha Bardhan, Lihua Xu, Sharma S. R. K. C. Yamijala, Chao Lian, Hyuna Kwon, and Bryan M. Wong

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