Silent spring institute continues PFAS testing on Cape Code


Silent Spring Institute presented to the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners Wednesday, April 7, about the level of certain potentially toxic chemicals in the water on Cape Cod and its current testing for them.

Founded in 1994, Silent Spring Institute is a Massachusetts-based scientific research organization dedicated to uncovering the links between chemicals found in the everyday environment and women’s health, with a focus on breast cancer prevention.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals that are resistant to degradation and can be found in everyday items such as dental floss, microwavable popcorn bags, non-stick cookware, carpets and others. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are part of the PFAS group.

Dr. Laurel Schaider, a research scientist at the institute, presented to the commissioners about three ongoing studies that Silent Spring is conducting on PFAS.

One study of those is part of the Sources, Transportation, Exposure & Effects of PFAS Superfund Research Program, or STEEP. This study is seeking to see how PFAS moves in the environment along with exposures and health-related effects. Alyson McCann from the University of Rhode Island, and Dr. Schaider are leading this study.

In 2018, 101 wells across 12 Cape Cod towns were sampled to measure the levels of PFAS in the water. Of the sampled wells, only 3 percent exceeded the Massachusetts standard of 20 parts per trillion for six different chemicals.

Currently, there are no federal regulations for PFAS in drinking water. Back in 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency set a lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA. Since then, several states have begun regulations on their own. The Massachusetts standard, which is lower than the EPA guideline, also includes testing for four additional PFAS whereas EPA’s guideline only includes PFOS and PFOA.

PFAS were detected in 46 percent of wells in this study, and 28 percent of wells had two or more PFAS chemicals present. Dr. Shraider said the plan was to test more wells last spring, but the ability to do so was altered because of COVID-19.

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Cape News, 9 April 2021