Team 3 (UNCC group) bench-scale reactor set-up for testing PFAS degradation from waste water via electrochemical degradation (photo by Mei Sun)

NC PFAST Network News                  July 2019
Dear PFAS Testing Network Colleagues,
We hope everyone is doing well during this hot and humid summer. We know from the monthly reports we have received research activities continue to be in full swing, including field and lab studies, conferences, and site visits being made by the PMT. We hope everyone will please continue to fill these reports out as completely as possible so we can provide timely replies to partners’ questions and submit reports to the NC General Assembly. The latest quarterly report was submitted to the NC General Assembly earlier this month and can be found
We want to remind all researchers we have an upcoming Network Science Meeting on Friday, August 9th at the Europa Center in Chapel Hill. The agenda and important details will be shared soon. The purpose of this meeting is to give all Network researchers an opportunity to come together and discuss preliminary results with each other and get critical feedback, including in communicating your data. This may also help promote collaborative papers that multiple teams can write together. Ideally, all PIs should attend this meeting as it is a forum to highlight all your work, but we expect at least one PI from each team/project to attend to maximize productivity.
We hope everyone’s presentation provides a brief overview of the study design, with a focus on the results obtained thus far and plans to complete the project.
Everyone should be working from the assumption that a FINAL REPORT is due by December 1, 2019. As a result, we will need all available results by November 1, 2019. Earlier in Spring we filed a 1-year extension request with the NC General Assembly for the final report, but based on the ongoing budget debate occurring in Raleigh right now we cannot assume we will get this extension. We will provide updates as we receive them.

I would like to conclude with a couple of other updates.  Excitingly, Professor Jamie Dewitt (co-lead of Team 5) from ECU was back at it again!  She provided congressional testimony (again) last week in front of the United States House of Representative’s Committee on Oversight and Reform. Check out her testimony here.  Finally, this year’s SETAC North America conference focusing on PFAS will be held in Durham from August 12-15, 2019. I know many of our Network researchers are planning to attend and even present. More conference information is available
As always, please remember to keep sharing upcoming events and news with us so we can provide this information to everyone else.  Thank you all again for your hard work and continued collaboration.  We will see many of you soon in Chapel Hill.
Most sincerely,
Jason Surratt, PhD
Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Gillings School of Global Public Health
UNC-Chapel Hill

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.
Network Bulletin
July Monthly Progress Report - due July 29th
Quarter 4 Financial Report – due Aug 5th
PFAST Network Science Meeting – Aug 9th

August Monthly Progress Report - due Aug 26th

Meet a Network Scientist



Can you provide background information about yourself?
I received a bachelor’s and first master’s degree in civil engineering from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. Then I worked for five years in consulting engineering companies designing water networks, pump stations, and wastewater treatment plants. In 2014, I moved to the US for my graduate studies. I got a master’s degree in computer science and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. Currently, I am a postdoctoral research associate in Team 2 working under the supervision of Dr. Jackie MacDonald Gibson.

How did you get involved in the PFAST Network? What are you doing?
I love interdisciplinary research on using machine learning and spatial data analysis environmental engineering and public health projects. This interest brought me here to UNC to continue working on using machine learning tools for an environmental health issue. Here at UNC, we research about Private Well Risk Modeling. This is a very innovative and interesting way of looking at how to find variables that are influential in the higher risk of GenX in private water wells.

Which people in your field have been most influential to you and your career?
I need to mention and thank three people in my career that helped me a lot. First, my Ph.D. advisor Dr. Yongli Zhang who gave me the opportunity to explore new ideas during my graduate studies. I had the opportunities to not only work in the lab studying microalgae and wastewater treatment but also exploring spatial data analysis and sustainability. 
Second, my computer science master’s degree advisor Dr. Weisong Shi who opened new doors to many ideas of using Internet of Things (IoT) and Edge Computing in civil and environmental engineering. 
And now in my postdoc work, Dr. Jackie MacDonald Gibson who supports my research in the developing of Bayesian Network machine learning models for PFAS risk modeling.


What major future research questions do you hope to address (PFAS related or otherwise)?
We are developing a machine-learned Bayesian Network model that can be used to classify the risk of PFAS contamination in private wells reliably. Additionally, our model will have a web page public model that homeowners can use and see if their well water is at risk based on specific variables. On top of that, all the data gathered is being used to build a spatial GIS model which can be a source for further studies in the future.


PFAS Article Highlight

Hand Wipes:  A Useful Tool for Assessing Human Exposure to Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) through Hand-to-Mouth and Dermal Contacts
Somrutai Poothong, Juan Antonio Padilla-Sánchez, Eleni Papadopoulou, Georgios Giovanoulis, Cathrine Thomsen, and Line Småstuen Haug
Environmental Science & Technology, (2019) 53, 1985-1993

Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the University of Oslo, and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute evaluated the potential use of hand wipes for estimating human exposure to PFAS from indoor environments.  In this study, they developed sample extraction and analysis (UHPLC-MS/MS) methods to detect 25 PFAS from 60 participants and their homes and performed correlation analysis with PFAS levels determined from the wipes, indoor air, and house dust samples. They also assessed the effects of living conditions and behaviors on the observed levels of PFAS from the hand wipes. The classes of PFAS studied included polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs), perfluoroalkyl phosphonates (PFPAs), perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFSAs), perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFCAs), and perfluoroalkyl sulfonamides (FOSAs).  As seen in the image below, the hand wipes consisted of gauze pads which were soaked in isopropyl alcohol.  Participants were given detailed instructions and shown how to prepare, collect, and store the samples.  The research team collected dust samples from living rooms using surface wipes and modified vacuum cleaners and sampled indoor air in the same space over 24 hours.  Estimation of exposure through hand-to-mouth and dermal contact required a number of assumptions including hours of exposure, uptake fraction (% absorbed through skin), and biotransformation rates.  Most of the assumptions were based on experimental data for PFOA, adding to the uncertainty in the calculations for other PFAS.  Results showed that significant amounts of PFAS could be detected in the extracts from hand wipes.  Polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs) were the predominant class observed, with the perfluoroalkyl acid (PFAA) precursors 8:2 PAP and 8:2 diPAP detected in 100% samples and 6:2 PAP and 6:2 diPAP in 93% of samples.  Within the hand wipe samples, there was a significant, positive correlation of PAPs, PFOS, and PFOA, indicating a common source of exposure from the indoor environment. Results also indicated that PFAS in hand wipes correlated with PFAS levels in the house dust and that PFAS in hand wipes correlated with levels of PFAS precursors (e.g. PAPs and EtFOSE) in the indoor air.  This study represents the first report of simultaneous sampling of human exposure (hand wipes) and the microenvironment (house dust and indoor air) for PFAS.  While the results are promising, additional studies are needed to increase the statistical power and to better characterize the influence of hand-to-mouth and dermal contacts on the internal dose of PFAS.



UPCOMING CONFERENCE (Aug 6th-7th): Groundwater Solutions: Innovating to Address Emerging Issues for Groundwater Resources
This National Groundwater Association symposium In Virginia will reignite dialogue between regulators, utilities, academics and other stakeholders working on solutions to large groundwater plumes and strategies for address emerging — and legacy — contaminants in groundwater and drinking water supplies. There are multiple PFAS focused sessions focusing on appropriate and pragmatic solutions for the response to, evaluation of, and restoration of, compromised groundwater. More information can be found here.

UPCOMING WEBINAR (2pm on Aug 20th): PFAS Regulatory Science
Texas A&M University Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology will host the 2019 Annual Regulatory Science Symposium entitled “The Sticky Subject of Non-Stick: Regulatory Science Challenges of Per- and Poly-Fluorinated Compounds.” There are three presenters with presentations reflecting government agencies and industry perspectives on the topic. More information, including the webcast link and agenda, can be found here (Note: the starting time listed on website is 1pm CDT/2pm EDT).

UPCOMING WORKSHOP (Sep 24th-26th): 16th Annual EPA Drinking Water Workshop
This free annual workshop will be held in Ohio in partnership with the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators to provide in-depth information and training on various solutions and strategies for handling small drinking water system challenges. The technical sessions will include topics such as: contaminants of emerging concern, risk management and crisis communication, and disinfection residuals and byproducts. More information can be found here.

UPCOMING WORKSHOP (Sep 26th-27th): Identifying Opportunities to Understand, Control, and Prevent Exposure to PFAS
This upcoming workshop of the National Academy of Sciences’ Environmental Health Matters Initiative will explore human exposure to PFAS, discuss options for controlling PFAS exposures, and consider innovative approaches for preventing PFAS exposures. The ultimate goal is to explore opportunities for partners across public, private and other sectors to advance the understanding about the extent of human exposure to PFAS and to reduce or prevent PFAS exposure. More upcoming information will be found here.

U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT and REFORM HEARING: The Devil They Knew – PFAS Contamination and the Need for Corporate Accountability
The hearing examined the history of the science behind the health risks associated with PFAS chemicals; what corporations knew about this science and when they knew it; the current levels of PFAS chemical contamination in the United States; and industry efforts to clean up contaminated sites. Witness testimony included several stakeholder groups, including Network scientist Jamie DeWitt (Team 5). A full recording of the hearing is available here.


News Roll

Public Radio East: ENC Health Currents: PFAS Testing Underway In ENC (Jul 3)
Following the PFAST Network findings of high PFAS levels in drinking water samples taken from Town of Maysville, this Public Radio East (PRE) report provides updates and insights about the PFAST Network’s ongoing work. The reporter followed and talked to researchers from multiple teams this summer, and describes what the researchers are doing to answer some of the pressing questions about PFAS and how their work connects to other PFAS activities. Network researchers and teams highlighted include ECU toxicologist Jamie DeWitt and Duke chemist Lee Ferguson (whose lab discovered the high PFAS levels in Maysville). Read more here.

Bloomberg Environment: PFAS Sleuths Seek ‘Forever Chemical’ Fingerprints (Jul 9)
Scientists around the country are working to better identify and track thousands of compounds that could unlock greater regulatory power and bolster plaintiffs’ ability to receive compensation from PFAS polluters. The goal is to find a scientific ‘fingerprint’ tool used in sampling and tracking other chemical pollution that can be used to identify distinct contamination sources of PFAS in a polluted environment. Although processes are in development to find traceable signatures common to various PFAS, interpreting results from these processes is complicated by overlapping signature attributes and evolving formulations of PFAS. If scientists can find practical solutions to these challenges, fingerprinting and related analytical tools can help clear up liability in hundreds of lawsuits centering on PFAS often involving multiple corporations and other potential PFAS sources. Read more here.

The Hill: How toxic 'forever chemicals' made their way into your food (Jul 14)
Nearly every American has PFAS in their body and scientists have long believed the primary route of PFAS exposure for most people is through food and drink. This article dives into the details of recently identified sources of food and drink PFAS contamination such as dairy farms, as well as known ones such as greaseproof food wrappers and drinking water sources. Strategies for addressing food and drink contamination are discussed, including tighter state and federal industrial oversight, testing of biosolids for PFAS, and clean up and remediation of existing contaminated water supplies. Read more here.

E&E News: PFAS battles spark lobbying boom (Jul 24)
As lawmakers propose bills and policies to deal with PFAS in their home districts and across the country, several companies that make and use these chemicals are boosting their lobbying efforts against provisions such as designating PFAS as toxic under Superfund law. As an example, 3M Co., which makes PFAS, spent $1.89 million on Washington, D.C., lobbying in the second quarter of this year compared with $930,000 for the second quarter of last year — a 103% increase. Chemours Co. spent $290,000 lobbying in the second quarter of 2019, a 123% increase from its reported spending second quarter of last year. Read more here.

Publications and Other Research
Science of The Total Environment (Jul 2019): Suspect screening and prioritization of chemicals of concern (COCs) in a forest-water reuse system watershed
Matthew Taylor, Sandra Nilsson, Jennifer Bräunig, Karl Bowles, Victoria Cole, Natalie Moltschaniwskyj, and Jochen Mueller
Melanie L. Hedgespeth, Nancy Gibson, James McCord, Mark Strynar, Damian Shea, and Elizabeth Guthrie Nichols

Reproductive Toxicology (Jul 2019): In Utero Exposure to Poly and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) and Subsequent Breast Cancer
Barbara A. Cohn, Michele A. La Merrill, Nickilou Y.Krigbaum, Miaomiao Wang, June-Soo Park, Myrto Petreas, Gregory Yeh, Russell C. Hovey, Lauren Zimmermann, and Piera M. Cirillo
Environmental Research (Aug 2019): Determinants of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in midlife women: Evidence of racial/ethnic and geographic differences in PFAS exposure
Sung Kyun Park, Qing Peng, Ning Ding, Bhramar Mukherjee, and Siobán D. Harlow

Environmental International (Sep 2019): Physico-chemical properties and gestational diabetes predict transplacental transfer and partitioning of perfluoroalkyl substances
Berrak Eryasa, Philippe Grandjean, Flemming Nielsen, Damaskini Valvia, Denis Zmirou-Navier, Elsie Sunderland, Pal Weihe, and Youssef Oulhote

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