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NC State Economist

NC State Economist: The Economics of the Emerging PFAS Problem

map of north carolina river basins

By Iain Burnett, Graduate Student, and Eric C. Edwards, Assistant Professor
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, NC State University

80 years ago, a new class of chemicals hit the market, led by brand names Teflon and Scotchgard. These per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were widely adopted thanks to unique properties that proved beneficial in countless applications. Public concern with the use of PFAS has risen dramatically in recent years due to emerging scientific evidence about their ecotoxicity and links to human health. In North Carolina, these heightened concerns are centered around the Cape Fear River and several drinking water reservoirs where nearby wastewater plants, airports and factories have been releasing PFAS for decades.

In this edition of the NC State Economist, we discuss PFAS by examining their benefits and costs to society, evaluate the effectiveness of current regulations, and consider the future of PFAS use and mitigation in North Carolina.