Examining the health effects of PFAS water contamination

A new nationwide federal study launched in fall 2019 is examining the health effects of drinking water contaminated with chemicals called perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which have been linked with health issues including some types of cancer, immune system problems, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease. The study will look at impacts among both adults and children in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

In Massachusetts, the research will examine two communities—Hyannis and Ayer—where water testing has revealed high levels of PFASs, according to a December 12, 2019 article in the Barnstable Patriot.

The article described a community meeting in Barnstable about PFAS exposure on Cape Cod. One of the speakers at the meeting was Laurel Schaider, a research associate in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Schaider is also a water quality expert with the Silent Spring Institute, which is partnering with Harvard Chan School, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, and Cape Cod Healthcare on the new study.

“The most recent estimate is there are over 4,700 PFAS chemicals on the global market,” Schaider said at the meeting. “By environmental groups’ estimates, up to 110 million Americans have PFAS in their drinking water.”

Read the Barnstable Patriot article: Silent Spring shares latest research on PFAS exposure

Learn more

Understanding the risks of ‘forever chemicals’ (Harvard Chan School news)