PFAS Found in Nearly Half of Cape Cod’s Private Wells

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Dr. Laurel Schaider with the Silent Spring Institute.

BARNSTABLE – PFAS chemicals have been found in detectable levels in about 46% of the private wells tested as part of a study on the compound’s effects on human health.

“So far we’ve found that nearly half of the wells that we tested had at least one PFAS detected at these low parts per trillion range,” said Silent Spring researcher Dr. Laurel Schaider at a presentation given Wednesday at Barnstable Town Hall.

Schaider is co-leading the study on PFAS contamination with Alyson McCann.

“For some of the PFAS chemicals, there are drinking water guidelines that are in range of tens of parts of trillion, so scientists are concerned that even relatively low levels of exposure may be of concern,” continued Dr. Schaider.

The study is being conducted by STEEP (Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFAS) Superfund Research Program from the University of Rhode Island.

“We went to 101 homes in twelve different towns to really get a good sense of what the levels are and whether there’s any patterns in terms of areas where the levels are high,” said Schaider.  

So far, the compound has been found in wells with higher concentrations of nitrate, but the exact relationship between the two chemicals cannot be determined yet.

Schaider said it may just be indicative of a household that consumes more materials in general, raising both concentrations. 

PFAS is a compound that can stick around in both the environment and the human body for a long time as it does not readily break down.

It is found mostly in firefighting foams, food packaging, and stain-resistant products like in carpeting.

The family of chemicals may be associated with various cancers and a higher risk of diabetes, among other effects.

PFAS can travel through breast milk and through the placenta to unborn infants, putting them and young children at high risk of exposure.

Over the next 5 years of the study, STEEP plans to sample 250 private wells. More testing is expected to continue over the winter months.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.



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