Multi-site Health Study - PFAS Cooperative Agreement

On September 23, 2019 CDC and ATSDR announced that they established cooperative agreements with seven partners across the nation to study how drinking water that contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may harm health. The seven grantees are part of the Multi-site Study (MSS) that expands on the work that began with the Pease Study located in Portsmouth, NH. As the first site, the Pease Study served to evaluate and improve procedures and methods for the health studies the MSS grantees will lead.

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: 

Multi-site Health Study Icon

  • 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 Belmont/Rockford area, 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 2,100 children and 7,000 adults from communities exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

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. 

Research involving humans suggests that high levels of certain PFAS may lead to the following:

  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Changes in liver enzymes
  • Decreased vaccine response in children
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
  • Small decreases in infant birth weights
  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer

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: July 22, 2020