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Spotlight On: PFAS, Environmental Contamination, and Health

PFAS, Environmental Contamination, and Health

Abt has extensive experience investigating and addressing the complex effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment and on human health. Our multidisciplinary team of health professionals and environmental scientists design, implement, conduct, and manage a wide range of assessments, evaluations, and investigations to find solutions to difficult problems and protect vulnerable populations.

We are a trusted partner to a wide range of clients, including state and federal agencies, indigenous groups in the United States and Canada, and private firms. We’ve tackled PFAS contamination at the federal, state, and community level, with efforts ranging from identifying the effects of PFAS in communities using our rapid assessment tool to supporting regulatory development and identifying the most efficient means of remediation options.

PFAS methods


Our multidisciplinary team has the expertise to support PFAS activities and a wide range of other environmental health-related tasks, including:

  • Hazard characterization
  • Site assessment
  • Toxicological evaluations
  • Natural resource damage assessment
  • Epidemiological research
  • Statistical support
  • Health communication
  • Study support
  • Program evaluation
  • Regulation and litigation support
  • Groundwater characterization
  • Identifying water treatment technologies
  • Advanced modeling including toxicological PBPK modeling, groundwater, analytical and numerical models

PFAs samples of relevant work

Samples of Relevant Work

Blood PFAS Estimator
Client: ATSDR

Abt developed a series of pharmacokinetic (PK) models to estimate blood PFAS levels due to the consumption of contaminated drinking water. These models incorporate background exposures and the person’s life stage, and account for uncertainty in the person’s potential exposure to PFAS (e.g., how much tainted water was consumed). The models also underwent extensive calibration and evaluation using Bayesian methodologies. After evaluation, the models were incorporated into a web tool designed to guide concerned citizens through a series of questions that help estimate their own blood PFAS levels in lieu of direct blood testing.

PFAS historical reconstruction

Historical Reconstruction of PFAS Water Contamination
Client: Federal Agency

During operations at a former military site, the use of AFFF as a fire extinguisher resulted in the migration of PFAS chemicals through the soil to the groundwater and, ultimately, to the groundwater-fed drinking water supply system. Completing a historical reconstruction of the PFAS contamination using a combination of modeling tools provided researchers with a more accurate estimate of the total perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) concentrations in the water system over 20 years. To tackle this complex problem we:

1. Convened an expert panel to review current and historical data collected from the site and provide recommendations for the reconstruction modeling process.

2. Developed an initial conceptual site model.

3. Completed a historical reconstruction of PFAS contamination, using a combination of off-the-shelf and in-house soil and groundwater modeling tools.

PFAS nrda

Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)
Confidential Site, Minnesota

At a confidential site in Minnesota, Abt evaluated the spatial extent of PFAS contamination from an industrial facility. The work included assessing multiple potential PFAS sources and pathways, and the exposure of soils, groundwater, surface water, and biological resources to PFAS. Abt assessed potential impacts to drinking water supply wells, as well as complex pathways to surface water and biological resources in the area. We also prepared a preassessment screen, the first step in the NRDA process, which presented preliminary evidence of exposure to PFAS and subsequent injuries to natural resources.

Pease PFAS Health Study

Pease PFAS Health Study – Proof of Concept
Client: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Abt is implementing an epidemiologic study to assess the health effects of possible exposure to PFAS contaminated drinking water at the Pease International Tradeport before May 2014. Abt developed an outreach strategy to enroll potentially exposed adults and children and a small comparison group. Once enrolled, Abt collects a blood sample and a range of data from participants. Abt also abstracts additional information from medical and school records. In addition, Abt collects PFAS sampling data on supply wells and the water system serving the Pease Tradeport and City of Portsmouth. To characterize the historical presence of PFAS, we collect well construction and production logs, aquifer tests, and water-level data for local supply wells. We also obtain historic hydrogeologic contamination reports and records of the use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a PFAS contaminant, at the former Air Force Base.

PFAS multi site study

PFAS Multi-Site Research Study
Client: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Given the large scope of a planned PFAS multi-site study (MSS) and the complexity of the data to be collected, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) partnered with Abt Global to standardize data collection, quality, and processes as much as possible across sites. Abt is coordinating data analysis, data management, and laboratory-related activities across the MSS to not only address the potential association between PFAS exposure and health outcomes but to also evaluate procedures and methods for a nationwide MSS.

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