Paulsboro PFAS Health Study

Drinking Water and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

The Paulsboro PFAS Health Study is anticipated to begin in early 2021

The Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute will be studying the health effects from drinking water contaminated by PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in Paulsboro, NJ and other sites in Gloucester County.  The study is part of a multisite study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at 8 locations across the US.  The Paulsboro PFAS Health Study is anticipated to begin in early 2021 with Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute and Rutgers School of Public Health.


  • In 2009 and 2013, tests found high levels of PFAS, specifically perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), in the drinking water from the Paulsboro Public Water System (PWS)

Eye on Paulsboro - New Episode

Information about the Paulsboro PFAS Health Study being conducted by Rutgers University. Find out why it is important and how you can get involved! Also, the Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse receives a gift from Century Savings Bank.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and manufacturing of consumer products since the 1950s, including some cosmetics; water, grease and oil-resistant products; and firefighting foam. The most commonly studied PFAS are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Their production and use has been phased out in the United States. Other PFAS chemicals include PFNA, which was found in the drinking water in Paulsboro in 2009 and 2013. The contaminated well was shut down in April 2014 and reopened with filtration in June of 2016.


What are the possible health effects?

Health impacts of PFNA are less known, however some studies have shown that PFAS may:

  • Adversely affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and children
  • Lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
  • Interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • Increase cholesterol levels
  • Affect the immune system
  • Increase the risks for some cancers

We have much to learn about the potential health effects of exposure to PFAS, specifically PFNA

Why Paulsboro and what is the goal?

Paulsboro was selected for the study because residents were exposed to drinking water that contained PFAS.

The study will recruit community members to evaluate their PFAS blood levels and various health measures to learn how PFAS may affect health

We want to understand more about the health effects of PFAS because there is little known and some studies have shown that PFAS may be harmful.

Who can participate in the Paulsboro study?

An adult aged 18 or older who lived in Paulsboro at any time from January 2005 to April of 2014.

A child aged 6 through 17 who has parent or guardian permission and who lived in Paulsboro at any time from conception to April of 2014.

May not be eligible if you worked in industry or were a firefighter, but please contact us to confirm.

What are the benefits of you joining us?

  • Help health scientists to understand how PFAS affect health.
  • Receive their individual test results, which they can share with their doctors to monitor their health.
  • Up to $75 in gift cards for completing the study.

How are participant’s results handled?

  • Rutgers, CDC, and ATSDR are careful to protect personal information and maintain privacy and confidentiality.
  • Researchers will analyze test results to learn more about the possible health effects of PFAS exposure.
  • After the study ends and results are analyzed, Rutgers, CDC, and ATSDR will share results as soon as possible and will write and share a report with the public.

What are opportunities for you to get involved?

A Citizen Advisory Panel (CAP) will be made up of a majority of residents of Paulsboro

The CAP members will:

  • Support the mission of the study.
  • Advise researchers on community environmental health concerns.
  • Assist in translating research to be understood by the community.
  • “Open doors” to the community by identifying appropriate partnerships.
  • Give input in the planning of research that asks critical questions

Possible additional opportunities:

  • Canvassing door-to-door, “neighbor-to-neighbor”
  • Tabling at Community Events
  • Environmental Health Leadership Training
  • Small grant opportunities

Paulsboro Health Study Team

Robert Laumbach M.D., M.P.H., C.I.H., Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Rutgers School of Public Health.


Role on the project: Principal Investigator.


In his role as the leader of the Paulsboro PFAS health project, Rob will be responsible for the overall direction and activities of the project. As a physician and a scientist at Rutgers for over 20 years, Rob has been working to learn more about how the environment affects people’s health.


The overall goal of his work is to develop and use this knowledge to help communities to improve their health and well-being when they have been affected by many different environmental stressors. The focus of his work has been on air pollution and water pollution. Rob believes that the people who make up communities are the most valuable and important asset for healthier and more livable communities. He is eager to receive community advice and feedback to strengthen the project, and to ensure that it is meeting community needs. Rob can be reached at any time at 908-436-8411 (cell) or

Robert Laumbach, MD, MPH, CIH

Principal Investigator

Shahnaz Alimokhtari is the Project Manager for the Paulsboro PFAS Health Study.


She brings over 25 years of experience across more than 35 projects in the NJ-NY-PA region, in both project management and field supervision roles, to this study.


Her experience is primarily focused on working with individuals and groups in small communities to understand the implications of environmental exposure on community well-being.


In applying exposure sciences to nearby subpopulations, she hopes to help local communities like her own.


Prior to her work with the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Shahnaz studied Environmental and Human Exposure Sciences at Rutgers University. Shahnaz’s role in the study planning and supervising the office/field activities within the framework of Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), following the lead of the Principal Investigator, (Rob Laumbach)


Shahnaz can be reached at  or 848-445-1144.

Shahnaz Alimokhtari

Project Manager

Kathy Black is a Senior Research Associate at the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute.


Kathy’s research focused on the effects of children’s activities on their exposures to pesticides. Currently she manages clinical research for a wide range of environmental health studies. In this role, Kathy obtains Rutgers University approval for all human research studies, making sure they meet strict ethical and safety standards.


Kathy has worked with a wide range of study participants including autistic children, volunteer firefighters, and World Trade Center responders. She previously worked on the Paulsboro Blood Test Survey, collecting PFAS blood test results and health information from Paulsboro residents. 


Kathy earned a Master’s in Public Health – Environmental Health from the Rutgers School of Public Health (then UMDNJ) and a PhD in Environmental Science from Rutgers University.


Kathy can be reached via email at or 848-445-6049.

Kathy Black

Senior Research Associate

Kerry Margaret Butch is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease at Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. Kerry’s role in the Paulsboro PFAS Health Study is to facilitate the active involvement of community members, elected officials, and school, civic and faith-based leadership in the study.


Her prior positions include serving as Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the Urban Project Director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, the Executive Director of the Asbury Park Consortium, and a Community Organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation and the Ironbound Committee Against Toxic Waste. Notably, she produced the award-winning documentary entitled, “Greetings from Asbury Park” shown throughout the country and on PBS and assembled the same crew to create “Storming for the Vote: Hurricane Sandy and the Election” for the LWVNJ.


Kerry can be reached via cell at 732-982-6942 (cell) or

Kerry Margaret Butch


Keith Cooper is a Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and the chair of the External Advisory Board for the PFAS Health Study.


His main area of expertise is the mechanisms and effects of chemicals on humans and other organisms. He has over 40 years of experience examining chemical impacts, working with state/federal agencies, and explaining the effects of chemicals to individuals and communities. His role is to advise and make suggestions on the science and possible areas of further study.


Dr. Cooper earned his Ph.D. in 1979 in Comparative Pathology from the University of Rhode Island and a MS in Toxicology 1981 from Thomas Jefferson University.  He has been at Rutgers since 1981 and served as a liaison between many groups examining chemicals of human health and ecological concerns.


Keith can be reached at

Keith Cooper


Nancy Fiedler is a clinical psychologist and has been involved in numerous community based projects as member of EOHSI.  Her work includes the health effects of chemical exposures encountered in urban and farm communities and in the workplace.  She is a Professor in the School of Public Health with over 35 years of experience as a psychologist evaluating the impact of the environment on neurologic function and mental health.


Dr. Fiedler is responsible for evaluating the neurodevelopmental effects of exposure to PFAS among the children of Paulsboro.  She has worked in several New Jersey communities where chemical exposures are prevalent and looks forward to working with the Paulsboro residents to help understand the impacts of PFAS exposure. 


Nancy can be reached at

Nancy Fiedler


Judith Graber is an occupational and environmental epidemiologist who earned her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois, School of Public Health in 2012, after 15 years of working in the public sector at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maine Bureau of Health (now Maine CDC). 


Dr. Graber’s research is focused on the interactive roles of occupational exposures including Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and behaviors risk factors (such as tobacco use and obesity) on health outcomes including cancer and cardiovascular disease. She is the Principal investigator of the New Jersey Firefighter Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study (CAPS), a community-based participatory research project developed with New Jersey volunteer firefighters with the long-term goal of reducing cancer among firefighters and improving firefighter health. Dr. Graber and her colleagues at EOHSI, including Dr. Laubach and Kerry Butch, conducted the first health study of PFAS in Paulsboro. This preliminary study enrolled 196 Paulsboro residents and explored exposure to perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and other PFAS resulting from the industrial contamination of the water supply.  Since 2016, I have also been a member of the New Jersey Department of Health Bio-monitoring Commission and in that role contributed to the development and monitoring of studies to assess PFAS contamination in NJ. 


Judith can be reached at


Judith Graber


Rupal Nayi is a Research Teaching Specialist and the Office Site Coordinator for the Paulsboro PFAS Health Study located at 541B Mantua Ave.


She is interested in environmental health in low-income communities, and the impacts of environmental health disparities on chronic diseases. Her passion stems from her own experiences with disparities and health outcomes, growing up in South Jersey herself. She hopes to help people like herself and communities like her own.


She has experience working with small communities in groups and individually and is eager to work with the Paulsboro community on this important health study.


Rupal earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences in 2018 and earned her Master’s degree in Public Health - Epidemiology in May 2020, both from Rutgers University.


Rupal can be reached 856-599-1205 or at


Rupal Nayi


Pam Ohman Strickland is a faculty level statistician within the Rutgers School of Public Health. She is interested in the analysis of data uncovering the potential impact of pollutants on the health of communities, especially in areas that have experienced higher than normal levels of exposure. Having mentored students from all corners of New Jersey she has a particular interest in ensuring the health of communities within our state. She has evaluated effects of pollution across the state including in Camden, Paulsboro, and the Newark with volunteers who are students, school cross guards, firefighters, first responders, physicians, and other community members.


Dr. Pam Ohman Strickland earned her doctorate degree in Statistics from Cornell University in 1997, worked at University of Florida for four years, and has worked at Rutgers (formerly UMDNJ) for the last twenty years, teaching and conducting research in environmental and public health.


Pam can be reached at

Pam Ohman Strickland


Additional Resources

For more information call or email:


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