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Photograph of part of the Haw River, which is a tributary of the Cape Fear River
Part of the Haw River, tributary of the Cape Fear River that runs through Chatham County.

The DLC and HHIVE DLC labs at UNC Chapel Hill have begun a new collaboration to capture oral histories of North Carolinians affected by PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). PFAS are a class of chemicals found in a variety of products, such as non-stick cookware, food containers, and firefighting foam. North Carolina’s industrial and military endeavors have led to high levels of PFAS in our water systems, particularly in the Cape Fear watershed, which extends into 26 counties in North Carolina including Chatham County, a neighboring county of UNC. High levels of PFAS within the human body are now being linked to negative health outcomes, including cancer and fertility issues (Centers for Disease Control; Steenland and Winquist; Fenton et al.).

The goal of our project is to conduct oral history interviews with people living in those communities and get their perspectives on the effect PFAS has had on their health and the health of their neighbors. During these oral history interviews, we’ll ask our interviewees questions about their life histories and the role PFAS has played in their lives. We want to publish the interviews on a public-facing website that will reflect the experiences of North Carolinians with PFAS and give us more insight into our state’s water quality.



Learn More

Click here to learn more about the project or email to share your story.

Research Team

Our interdisciplinary team works in the fields of health humanities, environmental humanities, digital humanities, and public health.

Courtney Rivard

Dr. Courtney Rivard (DLC lab), Project Leader

Dr. Jordynn Jack

Dr. Jordynn Jack (HHIVE lab), Project Leader

Neha Bollam

Neha Bollam (Undergraduate; Public Health Major)

Claire Burke

Claire Burke (Undergraduate; English & Comparative Literature and Biology Double Major; Neuroscience Minor)

Laura Crook

Laura Crook (MA student; Literature, Medicine, and Culture)

Sejal Mahendru (PhD student; English and Comparative Literature)

Carmen Pharr

Carmen Pharr (MA student; Literature, Medicine, and Culture)

Mariah Marsden (Postdoctoral Fellow; Arts & Humanities Grant Studio)
Tara Hinton

Tara Hinton (Undergraduate; Environmental Studies and American Studies Double Major)



Centers for Diease Control. Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) Factsheet | National Biomonitoring Program | CDC. 3 May 2022,

Fenton, Suzanne E., et al. “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance Toxicity and Human Health Review: Current State of Knowledge and Strategies for Informing Future Research.” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, vol. 40, no. 3, 2021, pp. 606–30. Wiley Online Library,

Steenland, Kyle, and Andrea Winquist. “PFAS and Cancer, a Scoping Review of the Epidemiologic Evidence.” Environmental Research, vol. 194, Mar. 2021, p. 110690. PubMed Central,


Carolina Humanities for the Public Good grant