Want to know more about PFAS? Drop in for a community forum in Barnstable on Saturday
Cape Cod Times
March 23, 2023
Has the PFAS, PFOS, PFAS-6 alphabet soup got you scratching your head?
No worries, you are not alone. There are groups and organizations out there working to bring more clarity to the topic, including the Barnstable Youth Commission, Barnstable High School Green Club, and Sturgis East Environmental Club, which are coming together in cooperation with the Silent Spring Institute to host “PFAS and Your Community” on Saturday, March 25.
The free event takes place 1-3 p.m. at Sturgis Charter Public School Community Center, 529 Main St., Hyannis, with screenings of two short films exploring the impact of PFAS pollution on the environment and human health. Also planned is a panel discussion with local leaders and experts on how communities can protect themselves from these human-made chemicals that science is revealing are pervasive worldwide, and that are found in thousands of drinking water supplies across the U.S., including Cape Cod.
Current issue PFAS are everywhere. Removing them from the Cape’s water supply will not be easy.
“This is a unique opportunity to educate the community about PFAS,” said Laurel Schaider, a senior scientist at Silent Spring Institute.
Schaider is involved with the Massachusetts PFAS & Your Health Study, which is sponsoring Saturday’s forum. It’s the first time the organization has partnered with the local youth groups. Some of their members learned about the health study during an event the institute held at the Barnstable Town Hall in November, she said.
“There was some interest among the students in helping to promote the study,” Schaider said. “They saw the importance of encouraging people in the community to sign up. It’s been a great partnership to work together to plan this event.”
Learn how to protect yourself from PFAS, as well as the history and the fight against them.
Saturday’s program will include remarks by Cheryl Osimo, executive director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition.
The two films that will be screened include:
- “PFAS: The secret toxins in your body,” in which German multimedia reporter Tim Schauenberg explores the history and pervasiveness of PFAS chemicals and what people can do to protect themselves (Deutsche Welle, Planet A).
- “Forever chemicals: The threat of PFAS in our water,” in which CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Lee Cowan looks at how the chemicals got here, and talks with families, farmers, and health advocates fighting for clean, safe water.
Panelists will include Schaider, state Sen. Julian Cyr, Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells, Keith Lewison of Cape Cod Academy and Sierra Club Cape Cod Group, Barnstable Councilor Betty Ludtke, Barnstable Department of Public Works Director Dan Santos, and Greater Hyannis Civic Association President Betsy Young.
What are PFAS and what products use the chemicals?
PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are “widely used, long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“PFAS is an umbrella term that refers to this very wide class of over 12,000 different, but related chemicals,” Schaider explained. “These are all synthetic, manmade chemicals and they’ve been produced for decades and added to consumer products and firefighting foams.”
Within this group are PFOS and PFOA, or perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, which Schaider said are “the most notorious.”
“They are among the most prevalent found in drinking water and in people’s bodies,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some products that may contain PFAS include:
What has Massachusetts done to mitigate PFAS?
Here in Massachusetts, the Department of Environmental Protection has adopted enforceable drinking water standards for the PFAS-6, which Schaider said are PFOS, PFOA and four other PFAS “that have a very similar structure.”
“I think the fact that Massachusetts already has a standard in place really is an important step,” she said.
The state standard sets the maximum PFAS level in drinking water to 20 parts per trillion. The federal EPA is considering its own regulations that would set the standard at 4 parts per trillion. To learn more about what the EPA is doing, visit www.epa.gov/pfas/pfas-strategic-roadmap-epas-commitments-action-2021-2024
“It’s a very substantial step forward because, for the first time, it is aiming to limit a group of PFAS chemicals with the reasoning being that these chemicals occur together, and they cause similar health effects,” said Schaider.
Some potential health effects, according to the CDC, include increased cholesterol levels, decreased vaccine response in children, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, small decreases in infant birth weights, and increased risk of certain cancers.
Schaider noted that “the standards are intended to be protective of everyone’s health over a lifetime.”
More about the health study More Hyannis volunteers needed for PFAS health study. Learn more, join project at Nov. 16 info session
What is the PFAS & Your Health Study, and how can you help?
The Massachusetts PFAS & Your Health Study, which is sponsoring Saturday’s forum, is part of a national effort launched by the CDC to study the health effects of exposure to PFAS in drinking water. Findings from the study will inform policies and support communities in reducing their exposures.
Locally, scientists like Schaider, who is the lead investigator for the Massachusetts study, are recruiting Hyannis residents who may have been exposed to the chemicals in the past to participate. The study began recruiting participants in late 2021, but still needs more volunteers.
As part of the local study, residents who lived in Hyannis between 2006 and 2016 can get their blood tested for free if they participate. Before 2016, Hyannis had the highest levels of the PFAS-6 in its drinking water in the state, but they are now getting filtered out.
“We’ve had about 300 people complete all the components of their participation,” said Schaider.
The goal is to get 700 adults and 200 children to participate. Schaider said she plans to talk briefly about the study at Saturday’s event.
To learn more, and to sign up, visit bit.ly/ma-pfas.
Here are the basics about Saturday’s program.
WHEN: Saturday, March 25
TIME: 1-3 p.m.
WHERE: Sturgis Charter Public School Community Center, 529 Main St., Hyannis
MORE INFOMRATION: https://silentspring.org/event/film-screening-and-panel-discussion-0
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Want to know more about PFAS? Drop in for a community forum in Barnstable on Saturday – Cape Cod Times