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December 22, 2021

RESTON, Va. – The U.S. Geological Survey released a strategy today that outlines the agency’s future scientific role in the study of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemicals known as PFAS. 

This strategy identifies PFAS-related science opportunities that have informed ongoing USGS research and provides a strategic vision to address future science needs and opportunities with both existing and additional resources.

PFAS are a diverse class of long-lasting chemicals with a wide range of applications. They make non-stick cookware not sticky, food packaging grease- and water-resistant and firefighting foam effective in combating flammable liquid fires. But those same water- and oilproof characteristics also cause them to resist decay, remaining in the environment and potentially contaminating drinking water sources. Researchers have discovered accumulation of these “forever chemicals” in animal tissue, but the long-term health and ecological risks are not fully known. 

Scientist preparing to analyze samples in a laboratory
US Geological Survey scientist at the Eastern Ecological Science Center preparing to analyze samples on a high resolution mass spectrometer for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). 

“The more we learn about PFAS in the environment, the more we find how far we have to go to fully understand their persistence, their health and ecological impacts and their mitigation,” said Dave Applegate, Associate Director for Natural Hazards Exercising the Authority of the Director, U.S. Geological Survey. “The breadth and depth of its scientific expertise make the USGS ideally positioned to address these big questions and fill the science gaps to increase our understanding of PFAS movement, occurrence and distribution, notwithstanding the disproportionate impact on rural and inner-city communities.” 

The new USGS PFAS Strategy identifies scientific gaps in ongoing analysis conducted by multiple federal agencies. The USGS is uniquely staffed and equipped to provide capabilities in the science of PFAS occurrence, distribution and effects. The USGS has a deep history in environmental science and monitoring of water, soils, and biota that enable it to effectively analyze how PFAS move through the environment, the potential hazards to wildlife, as well as public exposures in public and private well-sourced tap water. The strategy will provide stakeholders with the tools and information on environmental PFAS needed to identify environmental distribution, support regulatory decisions, and mitigate or prevent PFAS-related hazards.

trees, sky, people, boat, water, bridge
PA WSC Hydrologic Technicians Collecting Surface Water PFAS Samples

The USGS PFAS strategy will complement research conducted by other agencies and provide critical information for regulatory and other policy decisions.

For more details about the USGS PFAS Strategy read the full report visit:

USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.