Silent Spring to Launch New Cape Cod Water Contaminants Research

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

HYANNIS – Silent Spring Institute researchers provided an update on private well studies on Cape Cod last week in Hyannis along with presenting a new research initiative.

The PFAS REACH study, which stands for Research, Education and Action for Community Help, will focus on highly fluorinated chemicals in the Hyannis water system.

The Hyannis water system has been impacted by PFAS contamination, mostly from the use of firefighting foams at the Barnstable Fire Training Academy and Barnstable Municipal Airport.

“This is concerning because PFAS exposure has been linked to immune system effects, thyroid disease, certain types of cancer, including testicular and kidney cancer, as well as other effects like low birth weight,” said Dr. Laurel Schaider, a Silent Spring researcher.

A component of the initiative will be to study potential immune system effects from the contaminants in children.

“Starting next spring we will be looking to recruit 4- to 6-year-old children who live in the Hyannis area,” Schaider said.

“We’d ask them to fill out a survey and to provide a blood sample that we would measure for these chemicals called PFASs and certain antibody levels.”

Previous research by a Harvard researcher has suggested children have more exposure to these chemicals and may have less of an immune system boost after they get vaccinations.

Silent Spring is in the process of developing protocols which will be externally reviewed before they start recruiting children for the study.

“Once we do hit the ground running we will be reaching out to preschools and pediatricians in the area,” Schaider said.

Materials will be available on a website currently under development.

Hyannis water is currently being treated for these contaminants.

“But we know that they can stick around in our body for extended periods of time for some of them on the order of years,” Schaider said.

Schaider said researchers continue to investigate to learn more about health effects from the PFASs.

“There are many individual PFAS chemicals and we really only have information about a few of them,” she said.

Silent Spring continues to work on the study of private wells in the region as part of the STEEP Superfund Research program, which is a collaboration with the University of Rhode Island and Harvard University.

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