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The PFAS Data Hub: Thousands of PFAS, Hundreds of Contaminated Sites, One Home for Data

By Carol Kwiatkowski | September 28, 2021

A peer-reviewed paper is published identifying over 200 uses of PFAS, ranging from firefighting foam and electroplating to climbing ropes and guitar strings. We know there are more. The US state of Michigan reports hundreds of public water systems, daycares, and schools with contaminated drinking water. Of all the states, Michigan has tested the most. We know there are more. A new database reports over 700 health and toxicology studies conducted through 2019 on just a few dozen PFAS. Hundreds more studies from the last two years are soon to be added. Authoritative lists indicate the number of fluorochemicals in the entire class of PFAS has risen to a whopping 9000+. Could there possibly be more? 

The PFAS problem is bigger than anyone can imagine. All around the world scientists are scrambling to identify, locate, measure, and report on PFAS. The science, policy, and news on our PFAS Central website attests to that. How can we get a handle on a problem this big? A year ago, a group of 17 university and government scientists, NGO and community-based advocates from five countries got together after a PFAS workshop hosted by our Institute to talk about the data gap problem. At first we thought we could attempt to solve it. “We’ll create a data repository to store all the information we can gather on PFAS in one place.” But the solution quickly felt bigger than the problem. 

We decided to start by identifying all the current sources of data on PFAS in each of several categories, such as contaminated sites, PFAS in products, and government actions. One by one people called out names of organizations and the data they hosted - spreadsheets and tables that could be mined for specific data points of interest. By shifting our mindset from scarcity to abundance, we soon realized there was more data available than any of us imagined. Here are some examples:

  • The US EPA's Comptox database categorizes over 16,000 consumer products and the chemicals they contain (including some PFAS)
  • The EU Information Platform for Chemical Monitoring provides environmental and biomonitoring data from member states, international and national organizations, and research communities (including PFAS data)
  • The PFAS Exchange has a map of US communities organizing and advocating for safe drinking water
  • The US Department of Defense lists installations they are investigating for uses or potential releases of PFAS
  • The Food Packaging Forum in Switzerland hosts a database that identifies food brands and retailers working to remove PFAS from food contact materials
  • The Safer States Bill Tracker database includes over 150 current and proposed US state legislative policies addressing PFAS

From this energizing brainstorm the PFAS Data Hub was born. Hosted on the PFAS Central website, it currently contains links to over 75 databases organized into 14 categories. There are so many US states monitoring drinking water that we had to create a separate category just for them. The interface we created is deceptively simple. It’s just a categorized list of links. But each one delivers a wealth of knowledge to dive in and discover. 

To be sure, much of what we need to know about PFAS remains a mystery. What products and processes are they used in most? Where are the contamination hot spots? What safer alternatives are already available? But collectively around the world, people are gathering information and data from more and more places to determine how PFAS have affected our world. Our goal is to provide easy access to as much of it as we can. 

The good news is - you can help! Email us about any resources you think we’re missing - remember they must be DATABASES, not reports, factsheets, or general website information. We especially need more data resources from outside the US. You can also send us tips about how to access information within the specific databases. Most of all, please spread the word. Post it on your listservs and social media accounts, and when you hear someone pose a question about PFAS data, direct them to the PFAS Data Hub! Together we can share this wealth of knowledge as widely as possible, so we can begin to solve the PFAS problem as quickly as possible.