On Dec. 7, in a joint hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives, Professor Peter Jaffé addressed a class of environmental contaminants that are known as “forever chemicals.” Otherwise known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, they break down very slowly and are present in the blood of people around the world and are also found at low levels in food.
In his testimony, Jaffé, the William L. Knapp ’47 Professor of Civil Engineering, told members that the federal government should supply critically needed direction to efforts to better understand the chemicals and their effect on people and the environment. Specifically, Jaffé suggested that greater research funds and a government-created database of the chemicals available to researchers could aid in these efforts.
“The large number of PFAS and the wide range of properties provide a unique challenge for conducting research on PFAS and regulating them,” said Jaffé.
Once scientists better understand the chemicals, Jaffé said, policymakers can make regulatory judgments based both on the prevalence of the chemicals in the environment and the health risks they may pose.
Jaffé is an expert on these chemicals. He and his research team have examined ways to mitigate PFAS contamination and to remove the chemical from groundwater and the environment.