CDC and ATSDR award $7M for PFAS research

CDC and ATSDR award $7M for PFAS research

The multi-site health study will investigate the relationship between drinking water contaminated with PFAS and health outcomes.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have announced they will be conducting multi-site research with seven partners to study the human health effects of exposures to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through drinking water at locations across the nation.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s and are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products. They can be found in food packaging, commercial household products and drinking water that is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Because of widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the U.S. have been exposed to PFAS.

“There is much that is unknown about the health effects of exposures to these chemicals,” said Patrick Breysse, director of ATSDR and CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health. “The multi-site study will advance the scientific evidence on the human health effects of PFAS and provide some answers to communities exposed to the contaminated drinking water.”

The scientific evidence linking PFAS exposures with adverse health effects is increasing, CDC says. Some studies in people have shown that exposure to certain PFAS might affect people’s health:

  • by adversely affecting growth, learning and behavior of infants and children;

  • by lowering a woman’s chance of getting pregnant; 

  • by interfering with the body’s natural hormones; 

  • by increasing cholesterol levels;

  • by affecting the immune system; and 

  • by increasing the risk for some cancers.

The CDC/ATSDR says the draft protocol representing the core research is undergoing review. All recipients must follow the final protocol to conduct the research at their sites. The final protocol will be posted on this site at a later date.

CDC and ATSDR are making awards, in the amount of $1 million each, to institutions to look at exposures in communities:

  • Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, to look at exposures in El Paso County, Colorado;

  • Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services to look at exposures in Parchment/Cooper Township and North Kent County, Michigan;

  • RTI International and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to look at exposures in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, Pennsylvania;

  • Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences – School of Public Health to look at exposures in Gloucester County, New Jersey;

  • Silent Spring Institute to look at exposures in Hyannis and Ayer, Massachusetts;

  • University at Albany, SUNY and New York State Department of Health to look at exposures in Hoosick Falls and Newburgh, New York; and

  • University of California – Irvine to look at exposures in communities near the UC Irvine Medical Center in the state.

The study will collect information about the immune response, lipid metabolism, kidney function, thyroid disease, liver disease, glycemic parameters and diabetes. CDC/ATSDR also will collect information about cancers, but the size of the study is not large enough for CDC/ATSDR to effectively evaluate the relationship between PFAS exposure and cancer. The study seeks to enroll at least 6,000 adults and 2,000 children. To look at cancer outcomes, a study would need to enroll many times those numbers, CDC and ATSDR say.

Although studying cancer is not part of the study, CDC and ATSDR say they are continuing to consider other possibilities to look at cancer. The two agencies say they are looking into conducting an analysis using previously collected data to evaluate associations between PFAS exposure and cancer, but planning for this analysis is still in the early stages.

The goal of thestudy is to learn more about the relationship between PFAS exposure and health outcomes among differing populations. It will also compare different levels of PFAS exposure from different sites and health outcomes. This project will provide a better scientific understanding about the relationships between PFAS exposure and certain health outcomes and will help people understand their risk for health effects. The information from the health study can be applied to communities across the nation.