Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Aviva Rossi


For centuries, new chemicals and compounds have been invented to improve material longevity or make a product cheaper to produce. Throughout this time, emerging chemicals have often gone through inadequate testing that may not consider all long term environmental and human health effects before they have gone to market in the United States. As a result, thousands of harmful chemicals have ended up in the food supply, water sources, and everyday items of people in the United States with the negative health effects often not being discovered for decades after the start of circulation. By this point, removal and assessment of health impacts seem near impossible, especially for pervasive, bioaccumulative compounds. A relevant example of this problem is perfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) which have been marketed to consumers since the 1940’s with adverse health outcomes not being acknowledged until the 1990’s. Some countries were quick to restrict PFAS production. However, the United States only began to implement restrictive policies and guidelines nearly 20 years after PFAS health studies started coming out. This study details adverse human health outcomes associated with PFAS exposure, identifies major exposure pathways and at-risk people groups, assesses current policies, and discusses whether current policies adequately address the exposure routes, along with suggested paths forward.

Results of this study identified industrial production and aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) as primary sources of PFAS release into the environment in the United States, along with other secondary sources. From the identified primary and secondary sources, this study demonstrates how PFAS travels through air, water, soil, and household products ultimately causing human exposure through ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact. United States policy gaps identified in this study include lack of restriction on PFAS production and use, lack of enough enforceable screening levels that federally enforce concentration limits, and lack of warning labels on household items containing PFAS. Mitigative policy improvements in these areas are recommended for identified exposure route gaps to better protect human health, including suggested PFAS production and use bans, implementation of PFAS screening levels for more exposure routes, labeling of marketed PFAS items, and improved public education on PFAS exposure risks.