Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry
Elsie Sunderland is the Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Harvard University. She holds faculty appointments in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. She is a faculty associate in the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA). Sunderland’s research group (http://bgc.seas.harvard.edu) focuses on how releases of persistent environmental contaminants are transformed by the physical environment and biological processes and how this affects human exposures and risk of adverse health outcomes. Prior to joining the faculty at Harvard, she spent five years working to inform environmental policy decisions with best-available science at the headquarters for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) in various offices. Her work at the U.S. EPA included regulatory impact assessments and development of guidance on how to best use environmental models to inform regulatory decisions. Dr. Sunderland holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from McGill University and a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from Simon Fraser University.
Understanding Diverse Exposure Pathways for PFAS
Exposure to poly- and perfluroalkyl substances has been associated with a broad suite of negative health outcomes. Mitigating exposure risks first requires understanding the relative importance of different exposure pathways for various demographic groups. However, new potential PFAS exposure sources (e.g., bottled water, food packing and biosolids) seem to emerge every day. This presentation will highlight some recent work studying the PFAS exposure pathways through drinking water and seafood and estimates of the relative significance of these known pathways for overall exposure levels measured in serum. Timescales for mitigation actions to reduce exposures will also be discussed as well as the importance of total fluorine mass budgets for accounting for diverse new PFAS sources that are difficult to detect analytically.