PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of man-made chemicals that are used in thousands of consumer and industrial products, from fire-fighting foam to cosmetics and from non-stick cookware to microwavable popcorn. There are hundreds of PFAS including PFOS, PFOA and GenX. PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment for decades. Due to their prolific use and persistence in the environment, PFAS have been detected in the blood of humans and animals all over the world and have been associated with a myriad of health concerns including thyroid disease and cancer. Research on PFAS is still emerging and will continue to emerge for years to come.
In 2017, PFAS became a major environmental and public health issue in the upper Piedmont, Sandhills and southeastern coastal regions of NC when these chemicals were discovered in the groundwater, surface water and potable water sources of the Cape Fear River Basin. The Chemours Fayetteville Works plant was identified as the source of the chemicals. Residents from Pittsboro to Wilmington have been affected by the presence of fluorinated contaminants in their water. The NC Department of Environmental Quality has issued a Consent Order to Chemours to mitigate the effects of the pollution and prevent future harm to the waters of the Cape Fear River, but a lot of research, studies and community outreach efforts are needed to fully understand the impacts of PFAS on our natural world and our health.
Sustainable Sandhills has partnered other non-profit organizations such as Cape Fear River Watch, community advocacy groups, researchers and educational institutions such as East Carolina University on NC State University’s Center for Human Health and the Environment’s GenX Study. We are working with these partners to conduct field research studies and convey their results, engage with PFAS-impacted communities and provide accurate information on PFAS pollution mitigation, remediation and prevention projects at federal, state and local levels.