UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For decades, a group of synthetic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has been used in numerous industrial and consumer products, including nonstick cookware, water-repellent materials, stain- and oil-resistant fabrics, firefighting foams and even some cosmetics. Recently, multiple federal agencies have been investigating PFAS and their potential links to health problems. In 2018, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced that a PFAS task force would be created.
The Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE), in collaboration with the Center for Security Research and Education (CSRE), will host a meeting to discuss PFAS and explore how Penn State can help address this critical issue. In addition, the meeting will be an opportunity to determine who at Penn State is working on PFAS, in order to coordinate for potential future grant calls.
The meeting will be held at 2 p.m. on March 21 in 233 HUB-Robeson Center. Individuals can attend in person or stream the meeting online via Zoom.
“Penn State is uniquely poised given the width and depth of researchers all across the Commonwealth working on a range of PFAS topics,” said Lara Fowler, IEE’s assistant director for outreach and engagement. “People have work already underway. The challenge now is to build collaborations internally and help support critical state and national needs.”
According to Fowler, Penn State has more than 40 researchers working on some aspect of detection, monitoring, remediation and health impacts of PFAS.
“Pennsylvania is one of the most affected states by PFAS in water, yet we are just learning how widespread of an issue this is, along with the potential health impacts,” Fowler said.
The challenge with PFAS is that the chemicals can transfer to water, soil and air during production or use. The chemicals do not breakdown, and they have been found in people, animals and food products throughout the world.
“PFAS is a national health security concern that requires all levels of government, policymakers, legislatures, academia, private industry and advocacy groups to collaborate to mitigate and prevent any possible health effects associated with PFAS in more than 30 communities across the United States,” said Herbert Wolfe, the CSRE’s associate director.