IIT-Affiliated Faculty Help Form New Center for PFAS Research at MSU

June 4, 2020

Six IIT-affiliated faculty members, Drs. Cheryl Murphy, Sudin Bhattacharya, Courtney Carignan, A. Daniel Jones, Hui Li, and Brian Teppen, have recently joined forces with nine other researchers across campus to form the Center for PFAS Research. This group, with knowledge spanning diverse fields across campus, are linking their expertise in an effort to understand more about PFAS and its effects on health and the environment. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class that includes at least 4,000 chemicals. Many of these have been used in fire-fighting foams for fuel fires, water and stain-resistant coatings for furniture, carpeting, footwear, textiles, paper food packaging and more. Unlike the case for nearly all other organic pollutants, PFAS in soil and water are not degraded by biological or biogeochemical processes.

The Center for PFAS Research, in collaboration with MSU AgBioResearch, will serve as a hub for academic, public health, state, federal, and industry research endeavors surrounding PFAS and emerging contaminants. The main goals of the Center for PFAS Research are to quantify and communicate PFAS risks, and mitigate their impacts on human health, agriculture and natural resources. Researchers at the Center will aim to quantify exposure and risk for humans, livestock, crops, fish and wildlife as well as develop and test remediation strategies and technologies. A number of researchers will also be exploring safer PFAS alternatives. Investment into PFAS research is timely and appropriate because there are no focused and coordinated efforts to explore PFAS impact on agricultural and natural resources in the U.S. There is also a significant investment by the state of Michigan (estimated at $50 million so far) into PFAS-related issues, which is well above the current federal level, and more than any other state in the U.S.

The Center will use an organized framework to unite researchers across disciplines to tackle this complex ecological and agricultural problem. Tapping into MSU’s vast knowledge base, research disciplines engaged with the Center will include biologists, toxicologists, risk assessors, computer scientists, modelers, mathematicians, chemists, physicists, ecologists and engineers as well as exposure, data and social researchers. Center for PFAS Research Director and IIT-affiliated faculty member, Dr. Cheryl Murphy, is looking forward to bringing even more expertise on board with the Center as their funding and research gets underway. “The PFAS problem is very complicated, but we are excited to tap into the vast array of expertise across campus that could help us tackle this problem. MSU is the perfect place to launch such a center”

On January 10, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act which designates certain PFAS as hazardous substances. If this Act is enacted, and PFAS are declared hazardous substances, then under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, aka Superfund), significant remediation funds become accessible for PFAS. The Center for PFAS Research will facilitate MSU’s readiness for when PFAS are declared hazardous substances, so that MSU can quickly respond to funding opportunities and provide sound science to support the risk assessment of particular PFAS compounds.

To learn more about the Center for PFAS Research at MSU, please visit: