NCDC239: Understanding and Evaluating the Risks of PFAS Contamination to Agricultural Systems and Development of Solutions

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCDC239: Understanding and Evaluating the Risks of PFAS Contamination to Agricultural Systems and Development of Solutions

Duration: 05/30/2024 to 09/30/2026

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are persistent synthetic contaminants of concern that have been in use for decades. PFAS act as endocrine disruptors, interfere with the reproductive system, affect fetal development, impact the immune system and promote the development of certain cancers. Furthermore, there are no known and feasible biological processes and naturally occurring chemical transformation that can effectively break down PFAS, making these chemicals last “forever” in the environment. This results in their widespread contamination for significant time within the various matrices including crops, livestock, fish and humans. PFAS uptake and accumulation in crops and livestock via land application of contaminated biosolids and contaminated water (including treated wastewater) occurs and is a significant concern because it is estimated that as much as 5% - 10% of crop fields in the U.S. might have been contaminated via receiving biosolids from wastewater treatment plants as fertilizers or soil amendments. The impact to agricultural lands irrigated with treated wastewater remains largely unknown. PFAS in biosolids contaminate soils and serve as the source by which they enter crops, livestock, as well as the surrounding water bodies. The safety of farmers and their families on contaminated land, and particularly children are of concern because these compounds can impact child development, most notably affecting immune function and metabolism. The awareness of the health impact on people, and particularly of PFAS on farming families and workers serves as impetus to develop safer farming practices and solutions to limiting exposure to farmers and workers but also limit the uptake in our food supply.

As a result of the growing awareness and concern of PFAS, Michigan State University established the Center for PFAS Research, consisting of a multidisciplinary group of 31 scientists across 9 different colleges (including Agriculture and Natural Resources, Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Human Medicine, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Arts and Letters, James Madison College, Lyman Briggs College), and one school (Packaging), a corporate partner (Fraunhofer Institute), and MSU Extension to investigate PFAS contamination along themes related to analyses and detection, monitoring, environmental fate and modeling, food safety, health impacts, risk assessment and communication and remediation, while working in collaboration with a large number of faculty and educators with programs in animal health, soil science, crop production, exposure modeling, and remediation. We recognize that collaboration across multiple disciplines and multiple institutions is necessary to assess risk, and rapidly develop solutions to keep our food systems safe and a multistate framework would be perfectly suited to facilitate these research directions. Currently, the Center has initiated communication with several other State Experimental Stations such as Maine and Indiana to collaborate and address related issues. These States (and we might include other several states if interested) could serve as the core group to initiate a multistate project to dedicate specifically to the research on PFAS in agricultural systems. Additionally, our research does and will continue to engage agricultural stakeholders in a search for solutions to PFAS contamination.


  1. Preparation of a five-year NC multistate project proposal

Procedures and Activities

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan


Literature Cited


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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