Team 5B wrangling alligators for blood samples (photo provided by Scott Belcher)
NC PFAST Network News May 2019
FROM THE DIRECTOR
Dear NC PFAS Testing Network Colleagues,
I hope everyone is doing well this month! First, I wanted to thank everyone who attended the PFAS Science Communications Training and Data Management Meeting this month. Thank you Jory, Kathleen, Katy and Ariana for your efforts on science communications training. I know many of us benefited from your discussions! Chris and Helena, thank you as well for getting us all together to discuss data management needs.
In other events, this past month, the PMT and I visited the labs of Professor Lee Ferguson and Professor Detlef Knappe at Duke and NC State, respectively. We really appreciate the useful discussions on lab protocols, data and sample storage needs, as well as sample handling and preparation for targeted and non-targeted mass spectrometry analyses of PFAS. It was also great for us to meet Gordon and Abigail from Professor Ferguson’s lab and Noelle and Zachary from Professor Knappe’s lab. Thank you all again for taking the time out of your busy schedules to facilitate these useful lab visits. For all other remaining research teams, please look out for and respond to PMT requests for scheduling site visits throughout summer. Although we are using these visits to see how things are going, we also hope you will use this as an opportunity to discuss your needs with us so we can help in any way.
In terms of Network progress, we are happy to note that testing and lab work is in full swing across all teams. As a result, please remember that we have scheduled a PFAST Network Science Meeting on Friday, August 9th, 2019 in Chapel Hill. You should already have received a calendar invite for this event and additional details and agenda will be shared closer to the date. We hope to use this event to share with each other the preliminary data we have thus far, and also to promote further synergy between Network research teams.
Excitingly, I also want to share that Professor Jamie DeWitt (co-lead of Team 5) discussed the human health risks of PFAS in front of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. Check out her testimony here.
Finally, everyone please keep sharing upcoming events with us so we can share this information with the full Network. We look forward to seeing many of you at the Wilmington PFAS Public Forum tomorrow afternoon!
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.
May Monthly Progress Report – due May 24th
Wilmington PFAS Public Forum – May 31st
PFAS Health Effects Science Cafe - June 20th
PFAST Network Science Meeting – Aug 9th
Meet a Network Scientist
ROBERT KIEBER, UNC-W (Team 4) Can you provide background information about yourself?
I received a BS in Chemistry from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in environmental and analytical chemistry from the University of Maryland. I spent two years as a PostDoc at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami after which I accepted a position as a professor of Chemistry at UNCW in 1989. My main research focus is in the field of marine and atmospheric chemistry with a special emphasis on emerging environmental issues.
How did you get involved in the PFAST Network? What are you doing? Our team was the first to discover significant amounts of GenX was present in rainwater in the Wilmington area. Based on these initial findings and our three decade long experience in the collection and analysis of precipitation samples our group was asked to be part of the PFAST Network measuring PFAS in atmospheric samples across the state.
Which people in your field have been most influential to you and your career? The most influential person in my field initially was my Ph.D. advisor Dr. George Helz in the environmental chemistry division at the University of Maryland. More recently the most influential people are my collaborators in the chemistry department at UNCW where we make up team MACRL (Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry Research Laboratory).
What major future research questions do you hope to address (PFAS related or otherwise)? I hope to address with the rest of team MACRL the importance of the atmosphere as a delivery mechanism for PFAS across the state. I would also like to understand what transformations of PFAS take place in the environment and how rainwater impacts PFAS in local waterways.
PFAS Article Highlight
Novel remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) from contaminated groundwater using Cannabis Sativa L. (hemp) protein powder Brett D. Turner, Scott W. Sloan, Glenn R. Currell Chemosphere, 229 (2019) 22-31 Authors “dedicate this paper to Professor Scott Sloan, friend and mentor (1954-2019)” https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.04.139
Looking for an environmentally friendly method for PFAS remediation, scientists from the Center of Excellence for Geotechnical Science and Engineering, Civil Surveying and Environmental Engineering at The University of Newcastle (Callaghan, N.S.W., Australia) evaluated six plant or animal-based protein powders against granular activated carbon (GAC) for their ability to remove PFAS from contaminated groundwater (provisional patent granted).
The protein powders tested included hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.), soy, pea, lupin, egg, and whey, with hemp outperforming the next best candidate, soy. Very good removal (>98%) of the main contaminants PFOS and PFHxS was achieved within a 1-hour contact time, and enhanced removal of shorter chain PFAS was demonstrated with increased salinity (ionic strength). Results from Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopic analyses indicated changes in the protein secondary structure upon interaction with PFAS, namely partial protein unfolding and modification of hydrophobic sites such as the side chains of the amino acids aspartic and glutamic acid. The results are consistent with their observation that soy protein, which does not contain a large number of these charged amino acid side chains, only removed about half as much PFAS (PFOS + PFHxS) as did hemp protein. The hypothesis is further supported by other research which demonstrated that binding of anionic surfactants to proteins induces non-covalent bonds (hydrogen bonds, hydrophobic interactions, van der Waals forces). Infrared difference spectra of hemp protein powder samples before and after exposure to PFAS were evaluated in an attempt to identify groups that actively participate in the hypothesized protein binding interactions. The authors acknowledged however that the spectra are complex, and interpretation is difficult. Further work is required to draw definitive conclusions regarding the PFAS-hemp protein interactions and the mechanism involved in PFAS removal.
While this particular hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) protein powder was less effective than Norit® GAC for total PFAS removal, based on price and the solid-to-solution ratio used in the study, hemp protein powder appears to be more cost effective by nearly 3-fold. This preliminary study shows promise for the use of plant-based proteins as a PFAS remediation substrate in pump-and-treat engineered applications.
UPCOMING LOCAL SCIENCE CAFÉ (7pm on Jun 20th): Toxic Chemicals and Human Health
This Science Café at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh will focus on PFAS research in North Carolina and what we know about PFAS health effects. Featured speakers are Network scientists Jamie Dewitt (Team 5) and Lee Ferguson (Team 1). More information can be found here
UPCOMING LOCAL WORKSHOP (Jun 21st): Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council PFAS Training
The training in Raleigh will explore key elements for characterizing and managing PFAS impacted sites. Topics of discussion will include: site characterization, complex mechanisms that impact fate and transport, remediation technologies and AFFF. Registration is free for state and federal employees, academics, and public stakeholders. More information can be found here.
UPCOMING LOCAL CONFERENCE (Aug 12th-15th): SETAC/Environmental Risk Assessment of PFAS
This SETAC North America focused topic meeting will synthesize recent advances in chemistry, environmental fate and exposure, human and ecological toxicity, and risk characterization of PFAS. The objective of the meeting is to review new and emerging information on PFAS and to formulate a roadmap for a risk assessment approach for PFAS. More information can be found here.
ADDRESSING GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATED BY PFOA AND PFOS
Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comments on a draft set of recommendations for cleaning up groundwater contaminated with PFOA and PFOS (two ‘legacy’ PFAS). The final recommendations will inform site-specific cleanup decisions. More information and links for public comment (deadline is June 10th) 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.
NIH FUNDING CALL (Due Jun 20th): Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental health Research
The NIEHS Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental health Research program seeks to identify individuals, regardless of career stage, with a potential for continued innovative and impactful research and combine their existing investigator-initiated research into a single award with a duration of up to 8 years and direct costs of $600,000 and potentially up to $750,000 based on current NIEHS funding to be consolidated into the award. Full details about the application can be found here.
U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE HEARING: Protecting Americans at Risk of PFAS Contamination & Exposure
The hearing on a series of proposed bills aimed at addressing PFAS contamination included witness testimony from several stakeholder groups, including Network scientist Jamie DeWitt (Team 5). A full recording of the hearing is available here. RELATED: Read “As PFAS Bills Stack Up, Lawmakers Debate Regulatory Schemes” for more lawmaker discussion here.
Intercept:High Levels of Toxic PFAS Chemicals Pollute Breast Milk Around the World(Apr 30)
A recent report from international environmental group IPEN indicates millions of women around the world are passing PFAS chemicals to their children through breast milk. These findings are similar to another study recently published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research that found PFAS in in at least 19 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. American based companies have known for decades women can pass these chemicals to their newborns but the information was not readily shared with the public. Read more here.
CBS: New study claims 43 states expose millions to dangerous chemical in drinking water (May 7)
A new report by the non-profit Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University finds people in 43 American states exposed to unhealthy drinking water. The study compiled information taken from Pentagon data and water utility reports. It shows an estimated 19 million people are exposed to contaminated water. Researchers found at least 610 contaminated locations ranging from public water systems and military bases to civilian airports, industrial plants, dumps and firefighter training sites. Read more here.
Science: Citizen sleuths exposed pollution from a century-old Michigan factory, with nationwide implications (May 16)
A Rockford, Michigan resident and her group of private citizens was successfully able to compile photos, documents and other evidence proving the site of a century old tannery that had recently closed was contaminated and not fit for redevelopment without remediation (as the company had alleged). The citizens found PFAS contamination of large swaths of land and water (sometimes at highest levels seen in U.S. drinking water) and the effort helped trigger an unprecedented statewide survey of PFAS contamination in Michigan. Michigan lawmakers are now introducing nationwide PFAS bills in Congress. Read more here.
NC Policy Watch: Toxic chemical contamination detected in Charlotte; NC lawmakers decline to act (May 17)
A year’s worth of monitoring shows alarming levels of more than 17 types of PFAS have been detected in the groundwater and surface water at the Police & Fire Training Academy in Charlotte. For the PFAS detected, the cumulative totals in groundwater wells ranged from 21,136 to 654,420 parts per trillion (ppt). The findings prompted NC Department of Environmental Quality to send a letter to Charlotte requiring city officials to submit a plan by June 30 outlining how the department will reduce or eliminate PFAS at the training site. Read more here.
The Hill: Lawmakers, Trump agencies set for clash over chemicals in water (May 27)
A push by Congress to pass bipartisan legislation addressing PFAS is setting up a clash with federal agencies under the Trump administration and other stakeholders. Issues of contention include whether to address individual or groups of PFAS, stricter laws than proposed by EPA and how to hold companies and government agencies such as Department of Defense liable for cleaning up contamination. Read more here.
Publications and Other Research
Environmental Science and Technology (Apr 2019): Identification of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in the Cape Fear River by High Resolution Mass Spectrometry and Nontargeted Screening James McCord and Mark Strynar https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.8b06017 Analytical Chemistry (Apr 2019): Bubble-Nucleation-Based Method for the Selective and Sensitive Electrochemical Detection of Surfactants
Ruchiranga Ranaweera, Carina Ghafari, and Long Luo https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.9b01060 Environmental Research (May 2019): Determinants of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in midlife women: Evidence of racial/ethnic and geographic differences in PFAS exposure
Sung Kyun Park, QingPeng, NingDing, Bhramar Mukherjee, and Siobán Harlow https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2019.05.028 Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (May 2019): A single analytical method for the determination of 53 legacy and emerging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in aqueous matrices
Timothy L. Coggan, Tarun Anumol, James Pyke, Jeff Shimeta, and Bradley O. Clarke https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-019-01829-8