The effect of perfluorooctanioc acid on bacteria associated with the human microflora

Student Classification


Faculty Mentor

Dr. Pameeka Smith-Pearson



Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2019


Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and is a man-made chemical used in household products (an example being non-stick cookware) and industrial products (an example being fire-fighting foams). PFOA has been detected to be in drinking water due to product runoff and contamination. High levels of PFOA consumption can lead to health problems such as low birth weight and some cancers such as kidney, liver, and testicular cancer. The hypothesis was if people consume PFOA contaminated water, then they are at a higher risk for having health problems than residents with purer drinking water. The sub-problem that was investigated was whether high concentrations of PFOA would limit the rate of resident microflora bacteria growth. A controlled experiment was performed by measuring the growth of Escherichia coli with increasing concentrations of PFOA in the nutrient broth. E. coli was chosen because it is resident bacteria in the human microflora. The data showed that as PFOA concentration increased, E. coli growth decreased. These results infer that the ingestion of PFOA alters bacteria metabolism and population in the human microflora. When the bacteria in the human microflora is disturbed, it can cause several chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel syndrome and autism. This could be a result of the ingestion of PFOA contaminated drinking water, but further research will need to be conducted to confirm this theory.

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