From the halls of the U.S. Congress to an international gathering in Zurich, policymakers, scientists, regulators, and others are responding to health concerns about a class of chemicals known by the acronym PFAS.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, possess a variety of useful qualities for industry and commerce. At the same time, they are highly persistent in the environment and are linked to effects on the immune system, hormone levels, neurodevelopment, pregnancy outcomes, cancer, and other health concerns, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
After years of use as firefighting foam and in industrial processes, PFAS have been found in both surface and groundwater drinking sources, from which they can cause exposures through ingestion, inhalation during showering, and absorption through the skin.
NIEHS-supported research is contributing new insights into the ways PFAS might affect the health of individuals and communities. NIEHS representatives had opportunities to speak at various worldwide venues in 2018 at which they conveyed an urgency that we learn more about how these chemicals affect the body, and how contaminated water can best be treated:
NIEHS and NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., along with others from EPA, Department of Defense, and Government Accountability Office, testified at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management titled "The Federal Role in the Toxic PFAS Chemical Crisis" on September 26, 2018.