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MSU Announces New Center for PFAS Research

Woman in stream taking water sample

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.

The challenge is particularly great throughout Michigan. According to an Environmental Working Group survey, Michigan is home to 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.,” said George Smith, the associate director of MSU AgBioResearch. “Given the wealth of expertise around the university, the Center for PFAS Research is positioned to become an important factor in the creation of PFAS standards, as well as a catalyst to forming key partnerships within academia, state and federal government, public health and industry.”

For more information about the Center for PFAS Research, visit canr.msu.edu/pfas-research.

Cameron Rudolph via AgBioResearch

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