Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of over 5,000 chemicals that can be found in a variety of consumer and industrial products such as nonstick cookware, water‐repellent and stain‐repellent formulations, fire‐fighting foams, pesticides, surfactants, etc. PFAS can be found in groundwater, surface water, soil, air, plants, animals and humans. These chemicals can have negative ecological and human health impacts, such as impacts on the endocrine system, immune system, reproductive system and have been linked to some cancers. Although this family of chemicals has been around since the 1940s, there is limited knowledge about environmental contamination of PFAS, exposure pathways of PFAS, wastes, biosolids and remediation of PFAS, PFAS toxicology and epidemiology and more. Our goal is to determine the knowledge gaps in PFAS research while developing and fostering collaborations between academic staff and governmental agencies.


PFAS Bioaccumulation in Fish

PFAS have been detected in environments throughout Wisconsin including soil and multiple lake ecosystems. These PFAS chemicals have been shown to accumulate in different animal species including fish. Our goals are to understand (i) what lakes contain PFAS and contain fish with elevated levels of PFAS, (ii) how PFAS is bioaccumulating in different fish species and where in the fish, (iii) how early life stages of fish are impacted by PFAS-contaminated waters and (iv) how communities of color and low income are disproportionally impacted by PFAS fish consumption guidelines.

2021 PFAS Workshop: Setting a research agenda for PFAS in Wisconsin

Workshop White Paper PDF

Hazard Index

PFAS are commonly found in the environment as a mixture of multiple different chemicals and different PFAS can have the same health effects on ecological and human health. People can be exposed to PFAS through a variety of different exposure pathways including drinking water.


Wisconsin Sea Grant has partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to create different communication resources and tools to understand PFAS exposure.

Evaluating the risk from PFAS in our drinking water

Hazard Index video