CEE Seminar (ZOOM): Quantifying the Health Impacts of PFAS - Environmental Transport Modeling to Improve Epidemiological Studies

Zoom (link below)
Russ Detwiler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Associate Director - UCI WEX Center
UC Irvine

VIA Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 912 684 8538 ~~ Password: 12345

Abstract: Per- and polyfluorylalkyl substances (PFAS) are a broad class of chemicals used since the 1950s in products including stain- and water-resistant fabrics, food packaging and foams used for firefighting (among many others). These molecules share a common structure that includes a chain of carbon and fluorine atoms. Due to the strength of the C-F bond, they resist degradation and persist in the environment. As a result, they have been detected in many municipal water supplies across the U.S. Recent concerns over the negative health effects of exposure to PFAS has led to regular monitoring for some of these compounds in water supplies over the past five years. However, assessing the long-term health effects of consumption of PFAS-contaminated drinking water and determining acceptable consumption levels require knowledge of historical exposure levels. Environmental fate and transport models provide tools for reconstructing historical exposure to PFAS in impacted communities.

In this talk I present results from an earlier study in West Virginia in which we modeled the environmental fate and transport of perfluooctanoic acid (PFOA) over a period of 60 years to retroactively assess the exposure of residents in nearby communities to PFOA through drinking water consumption. These efforts supported an epidemiological study that led to the establishment of probable links between PFOA exposure and testicular and kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia. Those results motivated a recently initiated multisite nationwide study of the health effects of PFAS exposure. This study, initiated by the CDC’s Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, includes seven sites across the U.S., one of which is here in Orange County. I will provide an overview of the efforts of a multidisciplinary UCI team that is studying PFAS exposure and consequences, with an emphasis on efforts to model historical groundwater concentrations of several PFAS compounds in the Orange County groundwater basin.

Bio: Russ Detwiler is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Irvine. His research focuses on flow and transport in porous and fractured media with emphases on contaminant fate and transport, coupled hydraulic/chemical/mechanical processes, and multiphase flows at scales ranging from pore-scale to field-scale. He received his doctorate in civil engineering from University of Colorado, Boulder. Prior to joining UCI, he worked as a staff scientist and deputy group leader in the Experimental Geophysics Group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.