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New MSU Research Center Studies PFAS Pollution

Cheryl Murphy photo
Courtesy photo
Cheryl Murphy runs the new MSU Center for PFAS Research

Michigan State University is launching a new research program to learn more about a toxic family of chemicals known as PFAS.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, or PFAS, are commonly found everywhere from firefighting foam to non-stick cookware. They’re linked to higher cancer risks and changes to the immune system. Michigan has the nation’s highest number of contamination sites.

The MSU Center for PFAS Research will be led by Department of Fisheries and Wildlife professor Cheryl Murphy. “How do we develop safer alternatives, because we like these products," Murphy explains. "That’s why they’re in everything, so we have to find ways, hopefully in combination with the health, the biological hazard part, to figure out which ones are safer.”

She says there will be a focus on locating hotspots and how to get rid of PFAS in a cost-effective way, saying “we’d hoped to develop a lab where we’re discovering where they are and developing some good standards to be able to measure them in all sorts of different things, especially stuff related to agriculture and natural resources.”

Initially, 15 researchers from several MSU departments will work at the center. Murphy expects that number to grow.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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