What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are emerging as a major public health problem in North Carolina (NC) and across the US. PFAS comprise a class of almost 5,000 known compounds. Their unique chemical properties have been harnessed to make consumer and industrial products more water, stain, and grease resistant; they are found in products as diverse as cosmetics, non-stick cookware, and firefighting foams. PFAS are resistant to degradation, move easily through the environment, and are suspected of accumulating in living organisms. Despite increasing evidence that they are found ubiquitously in the environment, there is a paucity of knowledge about their toxicity. For the few well-studied PFAS, associated health effects include cancer and toxicity to the liver, thyroid, and immune system; however, human exposure levels, mechanisms of action, bioaccumulation, or effective remediation approaches remain unclear for the majority of PFAS.

As a result of recent widespread detection in the environment and increasing evidence of human exposure, North Carolina State University has established a Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center for Environmental and Human Health Effects of PFAS. Several of these compounds are included on the Substance Priority List of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and are considered contaminants of emerging concern by the US Environmental Protection Agency

Our Center will address pressing questions about this class of compounds and will aim to advance understanding about PFAS environmental and human exposure in impacted areas of NC, toxicity and underlying mechanisms of thyroid and immune function, bioaccumulation potential, and remediation.

The Center aims to be a trusted resource for SRP stakeholders and impacted communities and to catalyze discovery of information that leads to prevention of PFAS exposure and protection of human health.