University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Carla Ng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, with a secondary appointment in Environmental and Occupational Health in the Graduate School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Chemical & Biological Engineering from Northwestern University in 2008. The research in Dr. Ng’s group focuses on the development of models for the fate of chemicals in organisms and ecosystems, at the intersection of chemistry, biology and engineering. She has a particular focus on the development of mechanistic toxicokinetic models of PFAS in organisms and using protein-PFAS interactions to understand and predict their impacts across different PFAS structures and species of interest. She was recently awarded an NSF CAREER award to support her ongoing work on PFAS with particular application to molecular modeling and drinking water treatment. Other areas of research include tracking the evolution of complex chemical mixtures in the environment and exploring the role of the industrial food system on the fate of contaminants, with implications for human exposure.
The Concept of Essential Use for Determining When Uses of PFAS Can be Phased Out
Per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a subject of urgent attention among scientists, regulators, and affected industries and communities. Due to the extreme persistence of PFAS and identified toxic effects of some members of this broad class, concerns exist along the entire PFAS life cycle. Complicating assessments of potential exposure routes and health impacts is the sheer number of PFAS and the wide variety of current applications. Given their persistence, if a toxic effect is identified for a particular substance, removal from the environment will be difficult and expensive, if not impossible. It is therefore clear that non-essential uses of these chemicals cannot be justified relative to the potential risk. In a collaborative effort of a diverse and multinational group of PFAS experts, a framework for determining non-essential uses of these substances was recently developed. It provides a rational way forward for identifying uses of PFAS that could be immediately eliminated and for prioritizing those uses for which safer effective alternatives need to be developed. This talk will introduce the essential use framework and discuss PFAS use in different product sectors as well as practical considerations and challenges in application of this concept.