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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Rutgers Faculty Find Increased Levels of PFAS Substances in Community

Rutgers School of Public Health faculty, Drs. Clifford Weisel and Judith Graber, led a multidisciplinary team to conduct a pilot study examining per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the community water supply of Paulsboro, New Jersey.

In 2009, PFNA, and PFOA were found in community water supply of the industrial town of Paulsboro, New Jersey. PFAS are anthropogenic persistent organic pollutants (POPs) of emerging health and environmental concern because of their resistance to degradation, tendency for global transport, and ability to bioaccumulate. PFAS are highly heat resistant, hydrophobic, and extremely durable. They are used in the manufacturing and production of many consumer products. Unlike many other POPs, PFAS are soluble in water, facilitating community-level exposures from contaminated community water supplies and private wells. Their presence in the environment is a result of consumer product use, industrial use, emissions, and disposal.  Health effects of PFNA have been studies les that that of other PFAS, but a growing number of epidemiologic studies have reported associations between  increased serum levels of PFNA and adverse health effects across the life spectrum, including disrupted lipid homeostasis, reduced immune response, adverse birth outcomes, and attention deficits.

The researchers conducted a cross-sectional study of current or former Paulsboro residents who had received PFAS blood-test results as claimants in the 2016 class-action lawsuit. The 192 study participants provided researchers with their blood test results and completed a survey about demographics; 105 participants also completed a health survey.

The researchers found PFNA serum levels were 285 percent higher in Paulsboro residents compared with NHANES participants (2013-2014 cycle). PFNA serum levels were higher among older compared with younger, and male compared to female Paulsboro residents. After adjustment for potential confounding, there was a significant association between increased serum PFNA levels and self-reported high cholesterol.

“This study points to the need to further investigate possible health effects of these persistent chemicals in Paulsboro and other exposed populations,” comments Dr. Graber. “While some PFAS are being phased out and banned in the U.S. and Europe, others, including PFAs and new shorter carbon-chain PFAS, are not. This points to the need for regulation of the use of chemicals in indusial processes before the potential negative health and environmental impacts are understood.”

Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) blood levels after contamination of a community water supply and comparison with 2013-2014 NHANES” was recently published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.