An interdisciplinary group of researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) is collaborating to form the MSU Center for PFAS Research, a new initiative to explore the health and environmental consequences of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS are manmade chemicals that have been used for more than 80 years in a wide range of industries.
According to Cheryl Murphy, a professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the center director, this class includes at least 4,800 different substances, only 40 of which have been studied to date. PFAS are commonly used in non-stick and waterproof coatings, fire-fighting foams, water and stain-resistant coatings for furniture, carpeting, footwear and textiles, among many other applications.
“We’re assembling a unique and diverse group of researchers to study this problem,” said Murphy, whose research focuses on aquatic toxicology, primarily the effects of contaminants on fish populations. “MSU is especially equipped to tackle such a formidable task because of our land-grant focus on research and outreach, and our leading programs in agriculture, health and natural resources.”
PFAS have infiltrated natural environments and scientists want to know more about the risk they pose to agriculture, health and natural resources. To date, scientists in Michigan have tested more PFAS contamination sites than any other state in the U.S.
The center currently consists of 15 researchers representing several colleges and departments at MSU, including chemistry, engineering, food science and human nutrition, human medicine and packaging. Murphy said to expect the list of researchers to increase.
The primary goals of the MSU Center for PFAS Research are to quantify exposure and risk for humans, livestock, crops, fish and wildlife; develop and test remediation strategies and technologies; and explore safer PFAS alternatives.
The center is supported in part by MSU AgBioResearch, which provides research support to more than 340 scientists across the MSU campus.
"This is an emerging area of concern for the state of Michigan and the entire U.S., with very little research focused on remediation and solutions," said George Smith, the associate director of MSU AgBioResearch. "Given the wealth of research expertise at MSU, the Center for PFAS Research is well positioned to help guide the formation of PFAS standards, research and best practices."
For more information about the Center for PFAS Research, visit canr.msu.edu/pfas-research.