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MIT Environmental Seminar: The Coming Challenges of PFASs in Water and Soil: Implications for Human Exposure

  • MIT, Stata Center (Building 32, Room 124) 32 Vassar Street Cambridge, MA, 02139 United States (map)

Stata Center, 32-124
Prof. Chris Higgins
Colorado School of Mines

The challenges posed by the widespread contamination of soils and groundwater by poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are immense. Despite growing concerns about human exposure to perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), other PFASs, particularly those derived from aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) have garnered little attention. Recent work using high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) has revealed that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of additional PFASs that may be associated with AFFF-impacted sites. While these other PFASs are likely
present in AFFF-impacted drinking water, their presence and role in soils remains poorly understood. Importantly, many of these newly discovered PFASs have diverse chemical structures, including anionic, cationic, and zwitterionic moieties. In this seminar, the complexity of the challenges posed by the composition as well as the unique behaviors of PFASs will be presented and discussed. In addition, the implications of potential biological exposures to these chemicals will be presented. Collectively, these data point to a need for a more comprehensive characterization of PFASs present in AFFF-impacted soils and waters and an understanding of their potential impacts to human and ecological health.