Reports of PFAS groundwater contamination began in 1999 and the extent of PFAS global contamination was first demonstrated in the early 2000s. Since then, PFAS have been detected in almost every environmental compartment (soil, sediment, oceans, freshwaters, landfills) as well as in wildlife and humans throughout the world. This has led to progressive restrictions on the use of PFAS and considerable national and international concern over potential health impacts. There have been several recent health and community support initiatives rolled out by the Australian Government in response to increasing concerns around chronic exposure to PFAS in areas with high contamination levels, particularly those in proximity to RAAF bases, airports, army bases, and CFA (Country Fire Authority) training sites where the use of PFAS-containing fire retardant foams is prevalent and ongoing. The proposed PFAS environmental quality limits (EQLs) are set at the limits of detection for most high-end mass spectrometers. This means that if any PFAS is detected, the level has theoretically already been breached. Despite all of this, however, there is little to no detailed information on the levels of PFAS that might cause harm in the environment and no consistent evidence of adverse health effects in animals or humans from PFAS exposure. There is, therefore, a significant need for more information on the mechanisms of PFAS toxicity and the doses at which such toxicity occurs.
Metabolomics is a large-scale study of small molecules, known as metabolites. It involves the analysis of either the full metabolite complements (untargeted analysis), or a selected subset thereof (targeted analysis), of a cell, tissue, biofluid, or in some cases, whole organisms. The approach can deliver information on the interactions between organisms and their environments and provides a holistic overview of contaminant exposure. Crucially, changes are metabolism are often equivalent before other ecotoxicological endpoints, for example, effects on reproduction and growth of individuals (and subsequent effects on populations and communities), are apparent. Metabolomic approaches have been used to assess the effects low-level chemical exposure in a variety of species and ecosystems, and a recent study suggested that ‘omics’ technologies, including metabolomics, were ideal methods to detect and analyse the effects of PFAS. This project will put this recommendation into practice.
University: RMIT University
Supervisor: A/Prof Oliver Jones
Student: Georgia Sinclair
Please contact Research Capability Manager Carolyn bellamy for further project and student information, or refer to the sponsorship page for 'The Process' document.
Carolyn Bellamy | Research Capability Manager
$39,000 over three years
30th Jun, 2020