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Presentation: 5:26

Poster attached as supplemental file below


Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of over 9,000 synthetic chemicals that have been used since the 1940s in various products. Detected at virtually all ecological levels with evidence of bioaccumulation, PFAS have become a public health concern. Contamination is largely attributed to drinking water, yet no specific federal regulations in the United States have been established. With gaps in public awareness, this study takes a novel approach through incorporating pre-/post-surveying and educational intervention techniques to inform Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) students on PFAS. With aims of evaluating TJU students’ levels of awareness and risk perceptions regarding PFAS, as well as expanding their knowledge through educational intervention, both Undergraduate and Graduate students were eligible for participation. Through non-random convenience sampling, the survey was sent via mass email invitation. With a total of 27 questions, the survey could be completed via REDCap software. Beginning with online consent, participants then completed the pre-survey, viewed the 2-minute educational intervention video, and finished with the post-survey. Likert scaling was used as a comparison method. Using SAS, analysis involved descriptive and inferential statistics. With 40 completed surveys used for final analysis, majority of respondents were Undergraduates (75%), with 20% Graduate students. 55% of all students reported they had not read/heard of PFAS before participating, whereas 42.5% had. No significant associations were found by enrollment status. By the post-survey, 97.5% of students felt they learned new information from the educational video, and 97.5% felt PFAS should be better regulated and discussed by government entities. Across all Likert scale questions, there was a notable shift in student knowledge of PFAS after the intervention. Although the low response rate limits applicability, the educational intervention was effective at increasing student knowledge of PFAS. The findings may be used to guide future health communication initiatives on PFAS mitigation.

Lay Summary

Found in many products used on a daily basis, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made chemicals that are believed to be dangerous to human health. These chemicals have been linked to many health issues, as well as pose a threat to the health of the environment. It is believed that people may become exposed to PFAS through their drinking water. Even though many people are likely exposed regularly, they remain unaware of PFAS existence. This may be because the United States government had not set any strict rules that stop PFAS from ending up in drinking water. This study was designed to take a deeper look at how aware and knowledgeable Undergraduate and Graduate students at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) are of PFAS. Through a study design that uses surveys before and after an educational video on PFAS, it is intended that changes in students’ understanding of PFAS could be measured. Aiming to see an increase in student knowledge of PFAS after they view the video, the survey was sent to all appropriate students through an email invitation. The survey included 27 questions, some of which included responses along a scale. Students who were interested in the study began by giving their online agreement, followed by completing the pre-survey, viewing the educational video, and finishing with the post-survey. All of the collected responses were measured to see if there were changes in knowledge of PFAS after viewing the video. 40 completed surveys were collected and found that most of the students who responded were Undergraduates (75%), followed by Graduates (20%). 55% of all students reported that they had not heard/read about PFAS before the study, and 42.5% of all students had heard/read about PFAS before the study. From the post-survey, 97.5% of all students thought they had learned new information about PFAS from the educational video, and 97.5% thought that PFAS should be talked about more and controlled better by the government. From the questions using scales, there was a clear improvement in student knowledge of PFAS after viewing the educational video. Even though there were less students who responded to the survey than expected, the educational video was believed to be beneficial to many of the students in increasing their awareness of PFAS. The results of this study will help with future public health plans to reduce exposure to PFAS through better communication efforts.