Tagged: PFAS

Enlightening the Path Forward: Paving the Way for PFAS Action through Essential Briefings

June 2023

Would you buy a home without seeing it first? That idea would have been unthinkable to most consumers 10 or 15 years ago, but a recently released step-by-step guide shows it’s becoming increasingly common practice[1]. Some buyers will merely take a virtual tour and submit an offer. Even with an excellent on-site buyer’s agent guiding the process, it would be a stretch to consider this action fully informed or without potential risk.

Sometimes government and business policies are made in a similar way. An emergency or crisis arises, decision-makers are quick to respond, and efforts are put into practice without full understanding of the underlying scientific data. The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is playing a role in making sure that doesn’t happen with PFAS.

EREF’s President, Bryan Staley, has had conversations with numerous local, state, and government officials in recent months, discussing the organization’s extensive research on Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These briefings underscore the significance of the organization’s research for informing policy, and they serve as vital steps toward establishing EREF as a trusted thought leader in PFAS study and regulation.

PFAS, often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their persistent nature, have emerged as significant pollutants potentially affecting human health. EREF has already written about the primary ways humans are likely to encounter the chemicals and the organization’s involvement with a key briefing to US Senate staffers earlier this year. Since that briefing, Dr. Staley has continued this conversation with state, federal, and corporate business decisionmakers who’ve sought EREF’s research on the extent of PFAS risks, effects, and potential treatments.

These briefings serve as a vital conduit between science and policy, enabling comprehensive, unbiased scientific research to influence regulatory decisions. It’s vital to pursue research, but it’s a distinctly different step to transform that research into practical knowledge for decisionmakers. In presenting the science of PFAS, EREF’s research offers the tools to navigate PFAS management decisions with clarity and informed judgement.

While EREF doesn’t propose solutions or advocate for policy, the organization’s research and conversations have uncovered one recurring theme that seems to be in conflict: an almost singular focus on end-of-pipe regulations while at the same time highlighting such facilities are a potential solution for PFAS disposal (e.g. EPA’s Interim Guidance on PFAS Management). Much of the research and legislation on PFAS has been aimed at water treatment plants, landfills, and recycling and compost centers. While these facilities play an important role in the overall approach to PFAS, they are not enough. There has been very little research on stopping PFAS at the source, but EREF has written about how consumers are most likely to encounter these chemicals.

Through continued research, informed advocacy, and strategic policy recommendations, EREF aims to lead the way towards a safer, healthier environment. We believe our work with PFAS – encapsulated by the briefings given to officials – serves as a model for how research can directly influence policy, ensuring that our collective decision-making is informed by the best available scientific evidence. We are committed to continuing this vital dialogue, embracing our role as a thought leader, and working tirelessly towards a future free from the harmful impact of PFAS.

[1] https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/buying-a-house-sight-unseen#:~:text=Have%20you%20found%20yourself%20thinking,ever%20visiting%20it%20in%20person.

There’s Something in the Water, but Where Else?

May 2023

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of human-made chemicals that have infiltrated nearly every aspect of modern life, from nonstick pans to water-repellent clothing, firefighting foams, and food packaging. Their unique properties, such as resistance to heat, water, and oil, have made them desirable in various industries, however, PFAS are not without controversy. As “forever chemicals,” their persistence in the environment and adverse health effects have raised concerns among scientists, policymakers, and communities worldwide.

The advent of PFAS began in the 1930s when chemists at 3M developed the first PFAS chemical, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Not long after, in the 1940s, DuPont scientists invented another form, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as part of their development of Teflon, a non-stick coating for pots and pans. These two chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, are the most well-known and widely studied of the PFAS family.

For decades, the advantageous properties of PFAS – resistance to heat, water, and oil – made them highly valued in a variety of industrial and consumer applications. However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that the potential environmental and health risks associated with these chemicals started to surface. Studies revealed that PFAS are not only incredibly persistent in the environment, but exposures at significant concentrations have adverse effects on human health. This led to a voluntary cessation of PFOA and PFOS use by U.S. manufacturers. However, these have been replaced by thousands of other PFAS compounds. Nonetheless, the environmental and health concerns have created a significant shift in the narrative around PFAS, sparking what has become an ongoing and complex discussion about regulation, remediation, and the future of these ubiquitous substances.

In April 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took its first enforcement action to reduce PFAS in drinking water, using the 2022 Clean Water Act as its basis[1]. While this seems like an obvious step in minimizing consumer encounters with the forever chemicals, in fact, humans are likely to experience significant direct exposure from sources other than drinking water. Primary means of direct exposure have been documented by multiple research groups, including a paper by Harvard University[2], which are summarized below.


Why does the cheese from a fast-food burger or pizza not stick to its packaging? It’s likely the result of PFAS chemicals[3]. This also includes microwave popcorn bags, candy wrappers, and even some pet food containers[4]. PFAS in this food packaging can leach into the food it contains, causing dietary exposure to the chemicals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is increasingly aware of this possibility, but like the EPA, has not banned the use of these chemicals in food packaging[5]. Non-stick coatings in cookware still commonly contain PFAS and are considered an “authorized use” by the FDA[6] despite continued research into its potential risks. However, researchers have established a systematic review protocol[7] to assess these risks to provide EPA and product manufacturers with the most current and accurate data.


Just as the FDA has yet to ban PFAS use in cookware, they’ve also taken no action to limit its use in cosmetics products. Manufacturers aren’t required to have cosmetic ingredients evaluated for PFAS before hitting the market[8]. FDA is aware of their presence and cites a 2018 study by the Danish EPA on their website denoting the dangers and current research trends[9]. To date, this study is the only risk assessment that has evaluated PFAS in cosmetics. Results found the highest PFAS content in sunscreens, followed by foundations and concealers[10]. Levels of contamination in samples were not enough to be concerning in any single product for one use, but of course, that’s not how cosmetics work. The concern is that consumers are often layering these products daily. For instance, if one applied foundation, concealer, and a sun-repellant moisturizer each morning, the exposure is essentially tripled. Applied day after day, this repeated dermal transmission could have serious effects. 

The FDA implemented a reporting system for “manufacturers, packers, and distributors of cosmetic products that are in commercial distribution in the United States,” but the reporting is entirely voluntary[11]. So far, the program has shown a decline in PFAS usage in the limited products reported, but considerably more data and research are needed to adequately assess PFAS usage and consumer risk in all five of these contamination categories and beyond.

Studies have shown that PFAS can also be present in carpet fibers and household dust from those fibers[12]. This presence is concerning because it can result in long-term exposure to these chemicals which can accumulate in the body over time. Babies and children are at a higher risk for this exposure given the extended periods of time they often spend on the floor.


Though included as a potential means of exposure, to date, PFAS exposure through the skin appears to represent a low risk relative to ingestion or inhalation. Many fabrics use forever chemicals on clothing, pillows, blankets, and carpeting – mentioned earlier. The chemicals are used in spray starches, stain-resistant coatings, and Gore-Tex. While these may make many consumer textiles harder to stain or ruin, they do not break down once textiles are discarded. The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is currently funding research into textile-to-textile recycling, which could lead to new textile production streams and additional new treatments.


Finally, it is possible to consume PFAS in drinking water. Treatment processes have been studied and implemented to reduce levels of PFAS in drinking water, and as mentioned earlier, EPA took action to regulate levels in March of this year. However, those regulations do little to remove PFAS from the product stream altogether. The EPA’s potential inclusion of PFAS in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) currently includes passive receivers (entities that neither produce nor manufacture PFAS but receive them through the waste stream) rather than the producers and manufacturers who are introducing the chemicals upstream. Thus far, much of the policymaking around PFAS has focused on managing PFAS concentrations at “end of pipe” rather than preventing them from entering the systems initially. However, in most cases any PFAS existing in end of pipe systems, like wastewater treatment plants or landfill leachate treatment systems, undergo multiple steps of treatment and dilution which represents multiple degrees of separation between a point of contact and human exposure. This is in stark contrast to the other methods of exposure where PFAS directly applied to consumer products is being ingested or inhaled.


Forever chemicals have been in the consumer product stream for almost a century, and their health impacts have largely centered around the 2 ‘legacy’ PFAS compounds: PFOA and PFOS. Most of this research has been conducted at high concentrations in animal studies. The demonstrated human health impacts similarly occurred under high concentration exposure conditions during PFAS manufacturing processes or with almost pure PFAS chemical products, such as anti-firefighting foam.

But what about the vast majority of society that doesn’t work in the PFAS manufacturing or fire-fighting sectors? The research behind exposure risk at lower “environmentally relevant” concentrations is still relatively immature with some studies suggesting impacts at lower concentrations could be benign[13]. However, such research is not conclusive, and more is needed. This, coupled with the fact that PFAS usage is dynamic and compounds being used are fluctuating substantially, makes answering this question both challenging and one that will take a much longer time frame. ­

[1] https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-takes-first-ever-federal-clean-water-act-enforcement-action-address-pfas

[2] E.M. Sunderland, X.C. Hu, C. Dassuncao, C.C. Wagner, A.K. Tokranov, J.G. Allen. 2019. A review of the pathways of human exposure to poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and present understanding of health effects. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. 29, 131–147, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-018-0094-1

[3] https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/exposure.html

[4] https://www.fda.gov/food/process-contaminants-food/authorized-uses-pfas-food-contact-applications

[5] https://www.fda.gov/food/environmental-contaminants-food/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas

[6] https://www.fda.gov/food/process-contaminants-food/authorized-uses-pfas-food-contact-applications

[7]  Nicole M. DeLuca, Michelle Angrish, Amina Wilkins, Kris Thayer, Elaine A. Cohen Hubal,

Human exposure pathways to poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from indoor media: A systematic review protocol, Environment International, Volume 146, 2021, 106308, ISSN 0160-4120, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.106308

[8] https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products-ingredients/cosmetic-ingredients              

[9] https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-cosmetics

[10] https://www2.mst.dk/Udgiv/publications/2018/10/978-87-93710-94-8.pdf

[11] https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-cosmetics

[12] Jinjin Chen, Linbin Tang, Wei-Qiang Chen, Graham F. Peaslee, and Daqian Jiang, Flows, Stock, and Emissions of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances in California Carpet in 2000–2030 under Different Scenarios, Environmental Science & Technology 2020 54 (11), 6908-6918, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b06956

[13] Georgia M. Sinclair, Sara M. Long, Oliver A.H. Jones, What are the effects of PFAS exposure at environmentally relevant concentrations? Chemosphere, Volume 258, 2020, 127340, ISSN 0045-6535, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.127340.

EREF Joins Industry Leaders to Discuss PFAS and CERCLA on Capitol Hill

April, 2023

Did you ever watch The Magic School Bus? In the episode “For Lunch,” Ms. Frizzle’s class miniaturized and took a trip through Arnold’s digestive system. While simple (and far-fetched), the animated journey presented an educational overview into a complex scientific process. In March, Dr. Bryan Staley traveled to Washington, D.C. to join panelists from across the nation and encourage Congressional staffers to take a similar journey – with PFAS.

Dr. Staley, the President and CEO of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF), asked the audience to imagine being a molecule on a forever chemical’s life journey. It begins as a coating on your non-stick frying pan, or your microwave popcorn bag, maybe even your makeup. Those items get manufactured with or packaged in containers that can contain PFAS, transported by vehicles using microchips that are also coated with PFAS, and sent to the distributors. Once the item is in a consumer’s possession, it’s used and, eventually, disposed. At this point, one might consider the PFAS journey over – it’s headed to the bin! In reality, that journey is just beginning.

As the products leave consumers’ possession, they travel to passive receivers. Passive receivers are entities that neither produce nor manufacture PFAS but receive them through the waste stream. This was the topic at the center of the gathering in the nation’s Capital in March. Moderated by Anne Germain, National Waste and Recycling Association’s (NWRA) COO and SVP of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, panelists also included Amy Brittain, Environmental Programs Manager in the Land Protections Division of Oklahoma’s Dept. of Environmental Quality; Judy Sheahan, Assistant Executive Director for the U.S. Conference of Mayors; Richard Watson, CEO of Delaware’s Solid Waste Authority; Jeff Ziegenbein, Acting Director of Operations at Inland Empire Utilities Agency and President of the CA Association of Compost Producers; and Eric Labelle, Principal Project / Process Engineer at the Wastewater Department in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Each of these panelists represented a group of passive receivers in the waste, composting, or water treatment industry, and most presented a case for Congressional action to exempt passive receivers from last year’s Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). As an independent, science-based research organization, EREF does not advocate for any positions, policies, or exemptions from regulations. Instead, Dr. Bryan Staley presented current data on how PFAS enters the waste stream, how these chemicals impact consumers, and the research EREF is currently conducting on the subject. The word of the day was ubiquitous. It was used by every panelist for each industry alongside EREF’s call for further research and the need for more data.

EREF has written on how science and advocacy work together to affect change in the world. The recent Congressional briefing is one example how research can inform policy and empower advocates to explain and defend the most educated course of action. EREF has published a number of reports on PFAS in leachate and compost, and has assembled a resource of scientific and technical studies on the topic. This subject is of utmost importance as studies continually show links between PFAS exposure and health complications. Just like PFAS entering the waste stream, EREF’s journey with these chemicals has only begun. The foundation currently has seven active studies related to PFAS and will continue to release updates and reports as findings become available. 

Landfill operators discuss PFAS management, regulations and the need for more research

Now that the federal government has previewed new plans to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), sometimes known as “forever chemicals,” landfill operators say they feel stuck between wanting more data and research before enacting future policy and needing clearer metrics to ensure safe PFAS management in the meantime.

That’s just one of several insights about PFAS that came out of an EREF Science Session webinar, which was described in a recent article in Waste Dive. Other insights indicate that operators believe that landfills, which utilize highly engineered liner systems, are capable of capturing PFAS and preventing leaching into groundwater. Additionally, given the variety of products and materials which contain PFAS, discussions are needed to stop PFAS generation at the manufacturing level.

The full article can be read here.

EREF’s New Science Sessions Puts a Conversational Twist on Solid Waste Education

Click here for a PDF of this release.

Raleigh, NC (January 7, 2021) – The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is excited to announce the inception of a new solid waste education series entitled EREF Science Sessions, which will kick off in mid-January.

In a time when interactions occur primarily online and Zoom fatigue has become a real concern, the Science Sessions aim to provide the content solid waste professionals need in brief, interactive segments lasting around 45 minutes to an hour.

These sessions will take a variety of forms, forgoing the typical presentation/webinar- style and opting for more interactive models such as interviews, panels and Q&A.

The first set of topics centers on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and emerging contaminants. While data and information surrounding the topic abounds, each session aims to bring new content to the table and focus on the role of the waste industry in the PFAS and emerging contaminants conversation.

Currently, 8 sessions have been confirmed with more anticipated to be lined up. Subtopics include:

  • Industry perspectives on PFAS management
  • PFAS policy
  • Management strategies
  • PFAS concentrations in domestic wastewater and leachate
  • Effective leachate treatment methods
  • PFAS stabilization and solidification
  • Exposure and health implications
  • And more to come!

While PFAS is the focus of the initial set of sessions, other topics will be added to the docket later in 2021.

EREF’s first session, entitled In the Room When It Happened: Industry Perspectives on PFAS, will be a panel comprised of Joe Benco (Republic Services), Sam Nicolai (Casella Waste) and David Pepper (GFL Environmental). This session will be held January 21 at 1 pm ET – registration is open!

Visit the EREF website to learn more and register.

Looking for a value-driven way to build your brand awareness? Become a Science Sessions sponsor! Sponsors receive a select amount of attendee spots with their sponsorship. Send an e-mail to events@erefdn.org to sponsor or learn more.

Thank you to our current Science Sessions sponsors, Golder and Republic Services!

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit erefdn.org.



Media Contact:

Catherine Ardoin, Communications Manager

Phone: 919.861.6876 ext. 109

Email: cardoin@erefdn.org

EREF to Hold Summit on Management Issues and Policy Related to PFAS in Leachate

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) will hold its Summit on PFAS in Leachate August 14 – 15 at the Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest in Ann Arbor, MI. The day and a half of presentations will begin at 1:30 pm ET on Wednesday, August 14, and conclude at 5:00 pm ET on Thursday, August 15.

This Summit will bring together practicing engineers, academics, industry professionals, government personnel and policy makers to provide various perspectives and facilitate discussions on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in landfill leachate.

Click here for more information (PDF).