Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that have been used in consumer goods and fabrics since the 1940’s. For decades, PFAS have been highly desirable in the manufacturing industry due to their resistance to grease, oil, and water. They can be found in paints, water-resistant clothing, cookware, carpeting, and cleaning products.

Due to their water- and oil-resistant nature, PFAS have become a growing interest among health researchers, as they do not breakdown in soil, water, or air. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, because of their widespread use and persistence in the environment, PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS may affect liver, pancreas, and thyroid function, change hormone levels, and increase the risk of certain cancers. More than 5000 PFAS chemicals are known to exist, and some of them may bioaccumulate over time, whereby the human body absorbs more PFAS than it can eliminate, elevating the risk for adverse health effects.

The Stapleton Lab at Duke has become heavily involved in PFAS research, and is working on various projects in North Carolina to test study participants' blood, as well as drinking water sources for specific PFAS chemicals. One of the most time-sensitive PFAS research studies in the U.S. is the contamination of the Cape Fear River Basin in North Carolina, which has proven to harbor a specific PFAS chemical known as GenX. Dr. Stapleton’s lab is collaborating with other researchers at Duke and at other universities to address the prevalence of GenX in the Cape Fear River and its tributaries.

See fact sheets below for more information

PFAS in Drinking Water Fact Sheet
PFAS Water Filter Fact Sheet

Click icons below to learn more about ongoing PFAS research projects in the Stapleton Lab


Associated Stapleton Lab Publications 

Hall, S.M., Zhang, S., Tait, G.H., Hoffman, K., Collier, D.N., Hoppin, J.A., Stapleton, H.M. 2023. PFAS Levels in Paired Drinking Water and Serum Samples Collected from an Exposed Community in Central North Carolina. Science of the Total Environment, 895: 165091. 

Carignan, C.C., Bauer, R., Patterson, A., Phomsopha, T., Redman, E., Stapleton, H.M., Higgins, C.P. 2023. A Self-Collection Blood Test for PFASs: Comparing Volumetric Micro-Samplers with a Traditional Serum Approach. Environmental Science & Technology, 57(21): 7950-7957.

Crute, C.E., Hall, S.M., Landon, C.D., Garner, A., Everitt, J.I., Zhang, S., Blake, B., Olofsson, D., Chen, H., Murphy, S.K., Stapleton, H.M., Feng, L. 2022. Evaluating Maternal Exposure to an Environmental Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Mixture During Pregnancy: Adverse Maternal and Fetoplacental Effects in a New Zealand White (NZW) Rabbit Model. Science of the Total Environment, 838(4): 156499.

Pétré, M.-A., Salk, K.R., Stapleton, H.M., Ferguson, P.L., Tait, G., Obenour, D.R., Knappe, D.R.U., Generous, D.P. 2022. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in River Discharge: Modeling Loads Upstream and Downstream of a PFAS Manufacturing Plant in the Cape Fear Watershed, North Carolina. Science of the Total Environment, 831: 154763.

Hall, S.M., Zhang, S., Hoffman, K., Miranda, M.L., Stapleton, H.M. 2022. Concentrations of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Human Placental Tissues and Associations with Birth Outcomes. Chemosphere, 295: 133873.

Herkert, N.J., Kassotis, C.D., Zhang, S., Han, Y., Pulikkal, V.F., Sun, M., Ferguson, P.L., Stapleton, H.M. 2022. Characterization of Per- and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) Present in Commercial Anti-Fog Products and Their In Vitro Adipogenic Activity. Environmental Science & Technology, 56(2): 1162-1173.

Hall, S.H., Patton, S., Petreas, M., Zhang, S., Phillips, A.L., Hoffman, K., Stapleton, H.M. 2020. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Dust Collected from Residential Homes and Fire Stations in North America. Environmental Science & Technology, 54(22): 14558-14567. 

Blake, B.E., Cope, H.A., Hall, S.M., Keys, R.D., Mahler, B.W., McCord, J., Scott, B., Stapleton, H.M., Strynar, M.J., Elmore, S.A., Fenton, S.E. 2020. Evaluation of Maternal, Embryo, and Placental Effects in CD-1 Mice Following Gestational Exposure to Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) or Hexafluoropropylene Oxide Dimer Acid (HFPO-DA or GenX). Environmental Health Perspectives, 128(2): 27006.

Herkert, N.J., Merrill, J., Peters, C., Bollinger, D., Zhang, S., Hoffman, K., Ferguson, P.L., Knappe, D.R.U., Stapleton, H.M. 2020. Assessing the Effectiveness of Point-of-Use Residential Drinking Water Filters for Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs). Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 7(3): 178-184.

Stanifer, J.W., Stapleton, H.M., Tomokazu, S., Wittmer, A., Zhao, X., Boulware, L.E. 2018. Perfluorinated Chemicals as an Emerging Environmental Threat to Kidney Health: A Scoping Review. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 13(10): 1479-1492.

Siebenaler, R., Cameron, R., Butt, C.M., Hoffman, K., Higgins, C.P., Stapleton, H.M. 2017. Serum Perfluoroalkyl Acids (PFAAs) and Associations with Behavioral Attributes. Chemosphere, 184: 687-693.

Rachel SmithPFAS Research