Accumulation of PFAS in Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems: Sources, Health Risks, and Possible Solutions

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of highly persistent chemicals that are widely used in industrial and commercial products. Due to their persistence, PFAS can accumulate in the environment, including soil and water, and subsequently, enter the food chain through crops and livestock.

A recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group revealed that in the US alone, nearly 20 million acres of cropland may have been polluted with PFAS, posing significant health risks to humans and animals alike.

The accumulation of PFAS in integrated crop-livestock systems is a growing concern as it poses potential health risks to humans who consume contaminated animal products. This article will explore the sources of PFAS in integrated crop-livestock systems, the associated health risks, and possible solutions to reduce PFAS accumulation and exposure.


Integrated crop-livestock systems are susceptible to PFAS contamination from various sources, the most common among them being:

1. Industrial Discharges

Industrial Discharges

Many industries use PFAS in their manufacturing processes, and these chemicals can enter the environment through wastewater discharges. These discharges can contaminate nearby water sources and soil, which can subsequently accumulate in crops and livestock.

2. Firefighting Foam

PFAS are commonly used in firefighting foam due to their ability to suppress flames. Contamination from exposure to firefighting foam is particularly relevant in farms that are in close proximity to areas where firefighting training and activities take place, such as military bases or airports.

In recent years, the use of PFAS in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) has been the cause of various lawsuits against the manufacturers of these products. The cases allege that people exposed to PFAS in firefighting foam have developed various health conditions, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and immune system disorders.

If you or your loved ones have suffered adverse health effects from exposure to the same, it would be worth assessing your damages, contacting a reputed law firm, learning about AFFF Lawsuit Settlement Amounts, and getting legal representation.

3. Landfill Leachate

Landfill Leachate

Landfills are a major source of PFAS contamination, as they receive a wide range of consumer and industrial products that contain PFAS. Leachate, the liquid that drains from landfills, can contain high concentrations of PFAS and can contaminate soil and water sources near the landfill.

4. Agricultural Practices

PFAS can also enter integrated crop-livestock systems through the use of contaminated manure or biosolids, which are commonly used as fertilizers. Additionally, the use of PFAS-containing pesticides or herbicides in agricultural practices can also lead to the contamination of crops and livestock.

Risks to Human Health

Risks to Human Health

One of the most significant health risks associated with PFAS exposure is liver damage. Studies have shown that PFAS exposure can cause liver damage, including changes in liver function and the development of liver tumors.

Research has also found that PFAS exposure can impact fetal and child development. Pregnant women who have been exposed to PFAS may have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy, including preterm birth and low birth weight. Additionally, exposure to PFAS during childhood has been linked to developmental delays, including delays in language and motor skills.

Another area of concern is the impact of PFAS exposure on the immune system. PFAS can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making individuals more susceptible to infectious diseases. PFAS exposure has been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.

Finally, PFAS exposure has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including kidney and testicular cancer. While the exact mechanisms by which PFAS exposure may increase the risk of cancer are not yet fully understood, it is believed that the chemicals may damage DNA and disrupt the normal functioning of cells.

Ways to Reduce PFAS Contamination in Agricultural Fields


To reduce the risk of PFAS contamination in agricultural fields, there are several strategies that can be employed:

1. Use Alternative Fertilizers

Rather than using biosolids or manure that may be contaminated with PFAS, farmers can use alternative fertilizers such as compost or organic fertilizers. These alternatives have lower levels of PFAS and are less likely to contribute to contamination.

2. Implement Best Management Practices

Implementing best management practices such as crop rotation and cover cropping can help prevent the accumulation of PFAS in agricultural fields. These practices can also help reduce the overall use of fertilizers and pesticides, which can further minimize the risk of PFAS contamination.

3. Remediate Contaminated Soils

Remediate Contaminated Soils

In cases where PFAS contamination is already present in agricultural fields, remediation strategies can be employed. One common remediation technique is phytoremediation, where plants are used to absorb and break down the contaminants in the soil or lower the bioavailability of the pollutants. Not only is this technique eco-friendly, but also cost-effective, with low installation and maintenance costs. This is because phytoremediation is an autotrophic system, meaning that it is powered by solar energy.

4. Support Research and Development

The development of new PFAS-free products for agriculture is an important area of research and development.  By supporting research in this area, farmers can help accelerate the development of safer and more effective alternatives to PFAS-containing products.


The accumulation of PFAS in integrated crop-livestock systems is a complex issue that requires immediate attention from policymakers, farmers, and consumers alike.

This article provides valuable insights into the sources, health risks, and possible solutions to the accumulation of PFAS in integrated crop-livestock systems. It serves as a wake-up call to stakeholders and consumers to take action toward ensuring the safety and sustainability of our food systems.

With concerted efforts, we can mitigate the accumulation of PFAS in these systems and promote a healthy and safe food system for all.