NHTI, Concord’s community college, and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services have partnered to study how per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can affect residents’ vegetable gardens in New Hampshire.
“The effects of these chemicals vary widely, and this study presents the opportunity to learn more about how they affect residents of New Hampshire. We are also thrilled to announce that, through the NHDES funding, NHTI is providing a paid position for one of our students to participate in this study as an undergraduate research assistant,” said Tracey Lesser, NHTI professor.
Through a combination of different soil types and water sources, the team seeks to understand what environmental factors influence uptake of these chemical into garden consumables falling into three categories – those where the plant root is consumed (radish), the plant leaf is consumed (basil), and the fruit is consumed (tomato) – as well as characterize any potential risks for consumers.
Since the 1940s, PFAS have been created and manufactured in industry- and consumer-based products, which include non-stick surfaces, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, and even some cosmetics. Because of their widespread use and commercial usefulness, various PFAS compounds have made their way into the environment. The stability of these compounds – meaning, their tendency to not break down over time – has led to them being “found in the blood of people and animals all over the world [and] at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment,” according to the CDC. Additional studies are ongoing to determine the effects of PFAS on human and animal health, including increased cholesterol levels, vaccine response, changes in liver enzymes, and multiple types of cancer.
The research team working on this includes NHTI faculty members Lesser and Veronica Thibodeau Carter, along with toxicologist Jonathan Petali and staff in the NHDES Environmental Health Program. Financial support for this project comes from NHDES. More information about NHDES’s investigation into PFAS can be found here.