Lab Matters Winter 2019 - Page 10

FEATURE found to have higher levels of PFOS and PFOA than California women, although levels of these two legacy compounds are decreasing. Today, Wells serves on the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), the first multi-agency, state PFAS working group in the country. Launched in 2017 at the behest of Governor Rick Snyder, MPART has statehouse support and funding. One indication of the group’s stature is its initial leader, a former deputy attorney general of Michigan. One of team’s first actions was to convene a scientific panel to advise the state on response, mitigation and recovery activities. So far, the state has proactively tested every public water utility in Michigan for select PFAS. It is in the process of testing drinking water from all schools, childcare providers and Head Start programs using well water, with results posted online. After finding combined PFAS levels as high as 1,828 ppt in treated drinking water from the tiny town of Parchment (population 3,174), officials acted swiftly, directing the digging of a tunnel to service Parchment with drinking water from nearby Kalamazoo. “We had a municipal water hook-up in about a month’s time between when we got the test results back and when there was basically a permanent solution in place,” said Wells. “The key is that a lot of that came about because of MPART; leadership could quickly grasp what needed to be done.” The MPART website includes a map showing 36 sites under investigation for PFAS contamination, including military facilities, tanneries (which often apply PFAS-containing Scotchguard TM to leather goods), the site of a tanker spill, metal plating facilities, a commercial laundry, a Superfund site, landfills and other locations. A separate webpage identifies lakes and streams affected by PFAS. Wells said authorities are also investigating possible PFAS contamination in deer and fish consumed in this “hunting state,” and are considering testing wild birds. Another concern, she said, is waste that is converted into biosolids and added to agricultural fertilizers. 8 LAB MATTERS Winter 2019 Biomonitoring California laboratory staff analyze samples for many different chemicals, including PFAS. (from left to right): Qi Gavin, Josephine DeGuzman, Yu-Chen Chang and Rana Zahedi. Photo: CA PHL What we find, in every study, is that just about every person has been exposed to PFAS. Regardless of where you live or what kind of work you do, everyone carries a body burden of these persistent chemicals.” California Department of Public Health Half a continent away, California has been focused on PFAS for over a decade via a state biomonitoring program established by law in 2006. Historically, the program has received baseline state funding of $2.2 million per year, supplemented in most years with CDC funding ranging from $1 million to $2.5 million. Individual biomonitoring studies measure PFAS in maternal and infant populations, firefighters and Asian/Pacific Islanders. And a separate statewide surveillance project assesses the PFAS exposure of the general California population. According to CDPH, “What we find, in every study, is that just about every person has been exposed to PFAS. Regardless of where you live or what kind of work you do, everyone carries a body burden of these persistent chemicals.” More heavily exposed groups in the California studies include firefighters— found to have significantly elevated levels of perfluorodecanoic acid relative to NHANES adults—and Asians, found to have higher levels of PFOS than Asians in NHANES. Overall, California men were As PFAS exposure routes become better understood and the public health response evolves, state laboratories will continue to play a vital role. Andy Gillespie, PhD, executive lead for EPA’s PFAS research and development, said laboratory testing to assess human exposure “is key to understanding risk and to understanding risk management options,” such as carbon filtration or ion exchange to remove the chemicals from drinking water. Gillespie expects LC/MS/MS testing technology to become less costly and more accessible over time, with improved tools to support data analysis. The laboratory response, he said, must progress “not only in terms of bandwidth—greater testing capacity— but also pushing the science to more advanced capability.” Currently, Gillespie said, EPA is doing considerable research into non-targeted PFAS testing, using high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS). Whereas targeted analysis measures “maybe 18 to 24 analytes and that’s all the method can see,” he said non-targeted analysis detects “everything that’s in a sample,” followed by “a lot of detective work . . . to figure out what you’re seeing.” The technology is mostly used in research laboratories today. Asked if he had any message for state laboratories, Gillespie responded with three. First, he said, “PFAS are likely to be contaminants of concern for a long time to come,” due to the persistence of legacy compounds and the ongoing production of new ones. Second, he said, “Increased analytical capacity for analyzing samples will be needed and welcome.” And lastly, he encouraged scientists to follow HRMS advances: “Follow that science and be ready to move in that direction.” n PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org