Multi-Site Health Study - PFAS Cooperative Agreement

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CDC/ATSDR announced on September 23 that they established cooperative agreements 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.

The seven partners awarded the cooperative agreement to conduct the Multi-site Study and the location where they each will conduct their work are as follows:

  • Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, to look at exposures in El Paso County, CO
  • Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services to look at exposures in Parchment/Cooper Township, MI, and North Kent County, MI
  • RTI International and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to look at exposures in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, PA
  • Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences – School of Public Health to look at exposures in Gloucester County, NJ
  • Silent Spring Institute to look at exposures in Hyannis, MA, and Ayer, MA
  • University at Albany, SUNY and New York State Department of Health to look at exposures in Hoosick Falls, NY, and Newburgh, NY
  • University of California – Irvine to look at exposures in communities near the UC Irvine Medical Center

The multi-site health study was authorized by the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2018 and 2019 to provide information to communities about the health effects of PFAS exposure. The information learned from the multi-site study will help all communities in the U.S. with PFAS exposures, including those that were not part of the study.

Expected Outcomes of the Multi-Site Health study

The goal of the multi-site health study 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.

The multi-site study will collect information about the immune response, lipid metabolism, kidney function, thyroid disease, liver disease, glycemic parameters, and diabetes. CDC/ATSDR will also 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 multi-site study seeks to enroll at least 6000 adults and 2000 children. To look at cancer outcomes, a study would need to enroll many times those numbers.

Although studying cancer is not part of the multi-study, CDC/ATSDR understands that addressing cancer is a major concern for some community members and are continuing to consider other possibilities to look at cancer. CDC/ATSDR is 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.

Some studies in people have shown that exposure to PFAS may:

  • Interfere with the body’s natural hormones;
  • Increase cholesterol levels;
  • Affect the immune system; and
  • Increase the risk for some cancers.

Understanding the relationship between PFAS exposure and health outcomes will allow communities and governmental agencies to make better decisions about how to protect public health.

Page last reviewed: January 21, 2020