The Risks of PFAS

The Risks of PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a class of man-made chemicals used in the production of a wide range of consumer products such as stain-resistant carpets, non-stick pans, waterproof jackets, and grease-proof food packaging. These chemicals are extremely persistent, and some can linger in our bodies for many years. Nearly all Americans carry traces of these chemicals in our bodies.

With over 4,000 PFASs on the global market, these toxic chemicals pose an enormous public health challenge. PFASs have been linked to a wide range of health effects including immune system toxicity, elevated cholesterol, delayed mammary gland development, effects on the thyroid and liver, and cancer. Scientists are concerned that exposures to chemicals that alter mammary gland development may increase the risk of breast cancer later in life.

PFASs are also showing up in a growing number of drinking water supplies across the U.S. Often this contamination is linked to the use of firefighting foams commonly used at military bases, airports, and fire training areas. Some contamination comes from industrial sources.

PFAS Resources and Updates

On January 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2019.  This bill includes some important provisions that were not included in the National Defense Authorization Act, such as listing PFOS and PFOA as “hazardous substances” according to CERCLA (Superfund Law), requiring EPA to set drinking water standards for PFOS, PFOA, and potentially other PFAS, and providing grants for impacted water supplies.  While the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate, it does indicate how much attention PFAS chemicals are receiving at the federal level.

Download the MBCC PFAS Fact Sheet here.

MBCC PFAS webinars:

Visit PFAS-Exchange – an online resource center about PFAS contaminants in drinking water from PFAS-REACH (Research, Education, and Action for Community Health), a five-year project funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The project is being led by Silent Spring Institute in collaboration with Northeastern University and Michigan State University. The main community partner organizations are Testing for Pease, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, and Toxics Action Center.


Learn more about MBCC’s 2019 Water Quality Campaign by clicking here.

On January 16th, MBCC joined other organizations and concerned citizens for a stakeholder hearing held at the offices of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to address concerns about PFAS contamination. Cheryl Osimo, MBCC’s Executive Director delivered a statement at the hearing, which can be read here.


On December 17, 2018, MBCC’s Board of Directors sent a letter to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner, Martin Suuberg, to express concern about the ongoing groundwater contamination issues surrounding the Barnstable Fire and Rescue Training Academy. You can view a copy of that letter here, and the Commissioner’s January 11th response here.

On March 20, 2019, MBCC’s Board of Directors sent a follow-up letter to MassDEP Commissioner Suuberg once again calling for decisive action with regards to the contamination issues surrounding the Barnstable Fire and Rescue Training Academy’s activities. You can read that letter here.

On May 1, 2019, MassDEP issued a letter to Barnstable County acknowledging the cease of active training at the Barnstable Fire and Rescue Training Academy’s site, and requesting a detailed plan and schedule for both the expansion of groundwater recovery and treatment system and for capping measures to prevent infiltration of precipitation through PFAS-contaminated soil at the site. You can view a copy of the letter here


On February 6, 2019, Boston Fox 25 News aired a story highlighting water contamination issues on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard featuring Cheryl Osimo, MBCC’s Executive Director. To view the news segment, please click here.