Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of synthetic compounds widely used in industrial and consumer products. While PFAS provide product durability, these chemicals are ubiquitous, persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. These characteristics make the ultimate disposal of PFAS a challenge. One current disposal method is incineration; however, little research has been conducted on the safety and effectiveness of PFAS incineration. The characteristics of communities with hazardous waste incinerators that have received PFAS shipments indicate that more individuals with lower incomes and individuals with less education than the US average are at higher risk of exposure, which presents important environmental justice and health equity concerns of PFAS incineration. Situated in eastern Ohio, East Liverpool is an Appalachian community that is home to a large hazardous-waste incinerator, operated by Heritage WTI, that began accepting PFAS in 2019. Residents are concerned that the disposal lacks the research necessary to assure safety for the residents. Due to both community interest and data gaps regarding PFAS incineration, our research team conducted a pilot study to examine the distribution and concentration of PFAS in soil samples surrounding the incinerator. All 35 soil samples had measurable amounts of PFAS including perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA)/GenX. PFOS was measured in the majority of soil samples (97%) with a range of 50–8,300 ng/kg. PFOA was measured in 94% of soil samples with a range of 51 ng/kg to 1300 ng/kg. HFPO-DA/GenX was measurable in 12 soil samples with concentrations of ranging from 150 ng/kg to 1500 ng/kg. Further research on PFAS disposal will advance knowledge and action related to regulatory requirements and exposure prevention, ultimately improving individual and community protections and health equity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80643-80654
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number33
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences/the National Institute of Health grant P42ES007380, P30 ES026529 and R24ES030904. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • AFFF
  • Environmental justice
  • PFAS
  • PFAS incineration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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