Compilation Of Research On PFAS In The Environment

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of man-made chemical compounds and a current, emerging concern to environmental health. PFAS substances have unique characteristics-resistance to heat, water, oil and stains-that make them useful in a variety of industrial applications and popular in consumer goods. Many PFAS are stable and long-lasting in the environment, acquiring the name “forever chemicals.” Industrial use of some of these compounds has been halted; however, many derivatives are still in commerce and more are under development. PFAS are now found in many compartments of the environment.

In order to manage PFAs in the environment, a lot of research has been directed at understanding their sources, fate and transport in the environment, and their potential effects on humans and wildlife. Recently, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (ET&C) published a special issue dedicated to PFAS with 32 articles. The issue summarizes risk assessment approaches for PFAS, which are needed for environmental managers and regulatory bodies to set appropriate drinking water standards and health advisory guidelines.

The published research illustrates that PFAS are ubiquitous and raise more questions than answers about their potential toxicity to humans and wildlife. The articles in the issue report that PFAS were found near defense bases, urban environments, treatment plants and waste disposal sites but also in remote, less inhabited areas. PFAS were detected in breeding kittiwakes in Svalbard, Norway, and ducks in Australian estuaries. They were found in hens’ eggs, soil, tadpoles, zebrafish, house crickets; the list goes on. The breadth of the published research illustrates that PFAS have dispersed in every medium in the environment (soil, water and wildlife).

In some of the studies, the presence of PFAS was related to a nearby source while in others it was not determined. For example, the authors of the article that investigated PFAS in Australian ducks did find a correlation between local sources of PFAS and bioaccumulation in ducks and noted that “Human health risk assessment showed that only ducks inhabiting wetlands near local sources of PFAS were likely to pose a risk to consumers,” and continued, “Management of food consumption from these locations is an effective measure to limit exposure.” In another study published in this same issue, long-chain PFAS were found in eight fish species across ten European glacial lakes in the Alps region, and while correlated to urban areas, could not be attributed to a specific, nearby industry source.

The issue illustrates that there are a tremendous number of PFAS substances, and it is a challenge for environmental managers and regulatory bodies to devise an approach to identify, understand and manage them all. The series provided a great review of the state of the science of PFAs risk assessment and also identified data gaps and the work needed to fill them in order to devise an effective approach to manage PFAS.

A review on the characteristics of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants: A source for toxic chemicals

Amir Hossein Hamidian, Elnaz Jafari Ozumchelouei, Farzaneh Feizi, Chenxi Wu, Yu Zhang, Min Yang (2021). “A review on the characteristics of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants: A source for toxic chemicals.” Journal of Cleaner Production 295, 126480.

Abstract: Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are known to be one of the main and most important sources of microplastics discharge into the environment. Although the occurrence and distribution of microplastics (MPs) in various environments have been extensively investigated, their characteristics in certain environmental matrices remain almost unknown. This paper aims to review strategies for sampling, sample pretreatment, and characterization of MPs detected in WWTPs and sewage sludge. In addition, this paper will review the efficiency of WWTPs in the removal of microplastic particles as well as their fate and implications as a source of toxic chemicals. According to literature, microplastics in water samples are mostly comprised of secondary ones (fibers and fragments) with the main polymers composed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene (PE). A significant proportion of particles are removed during the initial stages of primary and secondary treatment, while membrane bioreactor (MBR) is found to be the most efficient tertiary treatment technology. The removal rate is affected by the characteristics of MPs such as size, shape, and density. The majority of microplastics eliminated during wastewater treatment are prone to be found in sewage sludge. Thus, billions of MPs are released into the environment via sewage sludge applications each year. Microplastics can also act as a specific layer that adsorbs and transports distinct pathogenic/bacterial taxa assemblages and promotes the persistence of antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater treatment plants. Therefore, the current study provides an overview of recent research regarding MPs occurrence and removal in WWTPs and sewage sludge.

Assessing the ecological risk of PFAS: Current state of the science and identification of needs

Ankley, G. Assessing the ecological risk of PFAS: Current state of the science and identification of needs. “EPA-ECOS-ASTHO PFAS Science Call” Webinar, Duluth, MN, February 22, 2021.

Abstract: PFAS are a large, heterogenous group of chemicals of potential concern not just to human health but the environment. Based on information for a few relatively well understood PFAS such as PFOS or PFOA, there is ample basis to suspect that at least a subset can be considered persistent, bioaccumulative, and/or toxic. The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) recently sponsored a workshop that focused on the state-of-the-science supporting risk assessment of PFAS. This presentation will summarize discussions concerning what is known about the ecotoxicology and ecological risks of PFAS. The talk also will identify data gaps and needs, including the development of more comprehensive monitoring programs to support exposure assessment, an emphasis on research to support the formulation of predictive models for bioaccumulation, and the development of in silico, in vitro, and in vivo methods to efficiently assess biological effects for potentially sensitive species/endpoints. Addressing needs associated with assessing the ecological risk of PFAS will require cross-disciplinary approaches that employ both conventional and new methods in an integrated, resource-effective manner. The contents of this abstract neither constitute nor necessarily reflect US EPA policy.

Op-Ed: End to Greenwashing?

Read the full story at Q Magazine.

An increasing number of products claim to be environmentally friendly, from everyday necessities to carbon-neutral services, while companies claim to have reformed their business models toward sustainability. Companies have placed “sustainability reports” on their websites that show the world how they are doing. These reports often display exemplary results of environmental stewardship. So, why would this not be reason to celebrate?

The Effects of Environmental Sustainability Labels on Selection, Purchase, and Consumption of Food and Drink Products: A Systematic Review

Potter, C. et al. (2021) “The Effects of Environmental Sustainability Labels on Selection, Purchase, and Consumption of Food and Drink Products: A Systematic Review.” Environment and Behavior doi: 10.1177/0013916521995473.

Abstract: This review assessed the effects of environmental labels on consumers’ demand for more sustainable food products. Six electronic databases were searched for experimental studies of ecolabels and food choices. We followed standard Cochrane methods and results were synthesized using vote counting. Fifty-six studies (N = 42,768 participants, 76 interventions) were included. Outcomes comprised selection (n = 14), purchase (n = 40) and consumption (n = 2). The ecolabel was presented as text (n = 36), logo (n = 13) or combination (n = 27). Message types included: organic (n = 25), environmentally sustainable (n = 27), greenhouse gas emissions (n = 17), and assorted “other” message types (n = 7). Ecolabels were tested in actual (n = 15) and hypothetical (n = 41) environments. Thirty-nine studies received an unclear or high RoB rating. Sixty comparisons favored the intervention and 16 favored control. Ecolabeling with a variety of messages and formats was associated with the selection and purchase of more sustainable food products.

COVID-19 isn’t the only reason we should push for more investment in air filtration

Read the full story in Fast Company.

The bad air from roads has a detrimental effect on people living near them. But it can be easily fixed with air filters.

Restobar Mama is a brick-clad restaurant with a “carousel-like” canopy

Read the full story at dezeen.

Dutch architecture office KettingHuls has completed a restaurant pavilion in a park in Maastricht, featuring a circular steel canopy that allows trees to grow through its open structure.

Steel Producers Take Center Stage in Energy Evolution

Read the full story at IndustryWeek.

Steel makers are no strangers to technology and innovation, a reality that will prove instrumental as they work to meet the evolving needs within the energy market.

Traffic To Rooftop Solar Websites Surges As Texans Seek Freedom From Grid

Read the full story from Forbes.

EnergySage, which helps solar shoppers compare products and quotes from installation companies, said that traffic to its website from Texas is up over 200% this week compared to the rest of February. The number of registrations on its site has increased 335%, and readership of its blog posts on battery storage has spiked 1400%.

Residents’ climate anecdotes to inform San Diego resilience plan

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The City of San Diego Planning Department is seeking public feedback as it develops a climate resilience plan focused on preparing for sea level rise, flooding and drought, extreme heat and wildfires — risks backed up by a climate change vulnerability assessment completed early last year. The Climate Resilient SD plan would build on the city’s Climate Action Plan released in 2015.

A survey seeking residents’ anecdotes on how climate change has already impacted their communities, and gauging residents’ resilience priorities going forward, closes Friday. The planning department will then analyze responses before distributing a second survey. It aims to release a draft version of the plan this summer with a goal of submitting it to the city council for approval by year’s end.

Ultimately, San Diego is looking to adopt adaptation strategies to minimize the city’s vulnerability to climate change hazards, thereby protecting “people, economy, infrastructure, and natural resources.”