Risk communication is a critical step in addressing contaminants of emerging concern, etspecially high-profile compounds like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). There are differences in the messaging and methods by which environmental agencies and health departments share information with various audiences. Given the wide breadth of regulatory efforts, sampling strategies, and general involvement with PFAS, it is important to share best practices to help states effectively and efficiently address contamination.
In June 2018, the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), under a Memorandum of Agreement with U.S. EPA, published case studies and hosted webinars to highlight state-level risk communication of waterborne contaminants, including PFAS and harmful algal blooms (HABs). ECOS and ASTHO interviewed environmental and health agency staff from 13 states regarding their risk communication strategies and lessons learned for these two contaminants. Compiled information includes background on site contamination, development of guidance values and health advisories, rollout of advisories and relevant resources, key messages for the public, and challenges and gaps. The case studies’ key findings offer considerations to other states and stakeholders seeking to implement or improve their risk communication practices.
Building upon lessons learned from last year’s effort, ECOS and ASTHO developed a clearinghouse of PFAS risk communication resources and FAQs on how to communicate to four key audiences: the public, media, legislatures, and clinicians. ECOS and ASTHO will conduct webinars to share these resources in the coming months. The associations hope the materials on this site will help state environmental and health managers more easily collaborate and disseminate audience-appropriate information on chemicals of emerging concern.