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Scientist at Work: Mark Strynar, Ph.D.

2012 December 8

Dr. Mark Strynar is a Physical Scientist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. His research interests include developing methods to measure and analyze the movement and fate of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) and other xenobiotic compounds (chemicals found in organisms that are not normally expected to be present) in biological and environmental media.

When not at work, he enjoys spending time with his family and volunteering at his local church and various community programs. He is also an avid hunter, woodworker and welder who spends countless hours in his workshop creating furniture, contraptions, sawdust, and metal filings.

How does your science matter?

For the past eight years or so, I’ve focused on perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFCs are chemical compounds used to make products resistant to stains, water, or heat. Most people would recognize them as the compounds that keep food from sticking to pans or stains from ruining carpet.

Unfortunately, the same properties that make PFCs useful in kitchenware and fabric also make them highly resistant to degradation, which means they stay in our environment for a long time after we are done using them. We have found that PFCs are also widely dispersed in human beings.

My job is trying to figure out the different ways that PFCs get into your body. Each avenue of exposure: water, fish, air, food, house dust, etc., requires a different way (“analytical method”) for us to measure for PFCs and other chemicals of interest.

My research supports human risk assessment studies. It matters because if PFC exposure levels are too high we can help people take action. For example, in Decatur, Alabama, we found that levels of PFCs were too high in water and we were able to put people on alternate sources of drinking water. I can see an immediate impact from the work I’m doing to protect people’s health.

If you could have dinner with any scientist, past or present, who would it be and what would you like to ask them about?

I would say Louis Pasteur Exit EPA Disclaimer, who was one of the first to do a lot of microbial work and discover that the root causes of many diseases are biologically based in microrganisms. I would like to ask him what made him begin to suspect that microbes are the root cause of diseases.

To keep reading Mark’s interview, click here.

To read more Scientist at Work profiles, click here.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. FluorideFreeFlorida permalink
    December 8, 2012

    Thanks for your work Dr. Strynar,
    Why are PFC’s bad for us yet the EPA advocates fluoride in our water? Doesn’t the free fluoride that we drink have the ability to create bonds in our body… and stay there since fluoride doesn’t degrade in our bodies either?

  2. Sam at EPA permalink*
    December 11, 2012

    Thanks for the great question. PFCs are perfluorinated compounds and are different from fluoride. You can learn more about PFCs here –

    Also, you can learn about EPA’s work regarding fluoride here –

  3. Yabing H. Nollet permalink
    January 11, 2013

    What is the best method to analyze PFCs in the wastewater including inffluent, effluent and sludge? Is it possible the EPA would set up a discharge limit of PFCs in the future? What is the limit of PFCs in drinking water? Thank you very much.

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