ECU professor studying possible health effects of chemicals in N.C. drinking water

A professor at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine has received state and federal funding to study the health effects of potentially harmful chemical compounds that were found in North Carolina drinking water.

Dr. Jamie DeWitt, an associate professor in Brody’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, is part of a collaborative with investigators at North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte, North Carolina A&T and Duke University that has received $5 million in state funding to study the health effects of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and the extent to which these compounds have infiltrated the state’s waterways.

The state Legislature allocated the $5 million in this year’s state budget bill to the N.C. Policy Collaboratory, which will disseminate the funds to experts at these universities to conduct PFAS-related research. State officials have said this research model is the first of its kind in the United States.

“I think we are very fortunate to be in a state that has a university system that really makes it possible to bring together our collective expertise for the benefit of the residents of this state,” DeWitt said. “This is a use of taxpayer money that is going to address a problem of direct relevance, right now, to citizens who are drinking water that is contaminated.”

PFAS are human-made chemicals – such as PFOA, PFOS and GenX – that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. These chemical compounds are commonly found in commercial household products, industrial facilities, drinking water and food grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or processed with equipment that used PFAS.

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Originally published Jan 10, 2019.