Massachusetts moves forward to address drinking water contaminants

As part of Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition’s ongoing water quality campaign, the following comments were recently submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in regard to their proposed rule to regulate PFAS contaminants in the Commonwealth’s drinking water supplies.

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) applauds the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for adopting an enforceable standard for PFASs in groundwater at contaminated sites in order to protect drinking water quality. MBCC is also pleased to see that MassDEP has proposed a drinking water standard that is also enforceable and is stricter than the national lifetime health advisory put forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

MBCC continues to be deeply concerned about the serious health risks to Massachusetts residents from exposure to PFAS chemicals. We are encouraged by MassDEP’s approach for the proposed standard that includes the concentrations of PFOS, PFOA, and four additional PFAS compounds, as this approach recognizes the extreme persistence of PFAS compounds as a class. However, MBCC continues to be concerned that there are many more PFASs beyond these six compounds that also need to be addressed.

We know that scientists have determined that PFAS as a class of chemicals are both extremely persistent and mobile. It is because of these characteristics that MBCC urges MassDEP to consider additional approaches that will address PFAS as a class, in addition to this important first step of developing a standard to limit PFOS, PFOA, and other closely related compounds. Additionally, we know that scientists’ understanding of the effects of PFAS on the human body is continually evolving. With more and more information, scientists are discovering that there are health impacts at lower levels of exposure. Therefore, MBCC also urges MassDEP to be vigilant in making sure that its regulations and standards keep pace with emerging science.

MBCC believes that by casting as broad a net as possible when considering PFAS and ensuring that regulations reflect the most up-to-date research, the health of Massachusetts residents will be best protected.

MBCC Webinar Series Recordings

Below is a complete list of recording links for the MBCC Webinar Series. To see the 2021 schedule of speakers, please click HERE

Breast Cancer Care During COVID-19

featuring Dr. Michael Misialek, MD, Newton-Wellesley Hospital (November 2020)

PFAS Effects on the Immune System

featuring Dr. Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute (October 2020)

How PFAS Activism has Shaped Public Health Policies

featuring Dr. Jennie Liss Ohayon, Silent Spring Institute (August 2020)

Disparities and Inequities in Breast Cancer Care

featuring Hope White, Codman Square Health Center (July 2020)

PFAS in the Environment: The International Perspective

featuring Dr. Rainer Lohmann, University of Rhode Island

The After-effects of Breast Cancer Treatments

featuring Dr. Jill S. Oxley, MD, Cape Cod Hospital (May 2020)

Protecting Children from Drinking Water Contaminants

featuring Dr. Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute, and Dr. Phil Brown, Northeastern University (January 2020)

Breast Pathology 101

featuring Dr. Michael Misialek, Newton-Wellesley Hospital (November 2019)

PFAS in MA Drinking Water: An Update on Research and Regulations

featuring Dr. Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute (October 2019)

Role of Affected Residents in Discovering and Acting on Environmental Contaminants

featuring Dr. Phil Brown, Northeastern University (October 2019)

Crowdsourced Biomonitoring: Measuring Chemical Body Burdens in a Population of Concerned Consumers

featuring Dr. Robin Dodson, Silent Spring Institute (September 2019)

Breast Cancer and Stress: The Role of Stress and How to Manage it

featuring Dr. Jamie Jacobs, Massachusetts General Hospital (April 2019)

How Everyday Products Can Contribute to PFAS Exposure

featuring Katie Boronow, Silent Spring Institute (March 2019)

PFAS in Drinking Water: An Update

featuring Dr. Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute, and Alyson McCann, University of Rhode Island (January 2019)

Following Your Specimen Through the Lab: Understanding Your Pathology Report

featuring Dr. Michael Misialek, Newton-Wellesley Hospital (November 2018)

Finding Chemical Pollutants that Increase Breast Cancer Risk

featuring Ruthann Rudel, Silent Spring Institute (October 2018)

The Health Impact of Cell Phone Radiation

featuring Dr. Devra Lee Davis, Environmental Health Trust (September 2018)

Highly Fluorinated Chemicals in Drinking Water

featuring Dr. Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute, and Alyson McCann, University of Rhode Island (May 2018)

The Precautionary Principle: What’s in it for you?

featuring Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein, Tufts Medical School (March 2018)

Toxic Legacy of Early Life Exposure To Tetrachloroethylene-contaminated Drinking Water

featuring Dr. Ann Aschengrau, Boston University (January 2018)

Environmental Chemicals and Breast Cancer

featuring Kathryn Rodgers, Silent Spring Institute (October 2017)

Update on Breast Cancer and the Environment: Xenoestrogens in the 21st Century 

featuring Dr. Devra Lee Davis, Environmental Health Trust (September 2017)

Emerging Contaminants in Massachusetts Drinking Water

featuring Dr. Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute (April 2017)

Does Carcinogenesis Start in the Womb? Endocrine Disruptors and Breast Cancer

featuring Dr. Ana Soto, Tufts University School of Medicine (February 2017)

Personalized Decision Making in Breast Cancer. Why Prevention Matters More Than Ever

featuring Dr. John Erban, Tufts Cancer Center (November 2016)

Perchloroethylene, Breast Cancer, and Prevention

featuring Dr. Richard Clapp (May 2016)

Inside Detox Me – A New Mobile App from Silent Spring Institute

featuring Dr. Jessica Helm, Silent Spring Institute (March 2016)

Fluorinated Chemicals in Consumer Products and Drinking Water: Health Concerns and Tips for Reducing Your Exposure

featuring Dr. Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute (February 2016)

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition to be a Community Partner on National Health Study of the Impacts of PFAS in Drinking Water

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) will be a community partner for a new Silent Spring Institute-led investigation of the health effects of PFAS exposure from drinking water among adults and children in Hyannis and Ayer. This study, part of a larger multi-site health study supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), also includes researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Eastern Research Group, along with the community group People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment.

The study is one of seven projects being funded through ATSDR’s new multi-site health study on PFAS. The team plans to collect blood samples from 1000 adults and 300 children in Ayer and Hyannis, where public drinking water supplies have been contaminated by PFAS from the use of firefighting foams at nearby fire training areas. The researchers will analyze the samples for a range of known PFAS chemicals, biological markers of different health effects (including effects on the immune system, reproduction, cholesterol levels, and neurobehavioral effects in children), and previously unknown PFAS chemicals that study participants may have been exposed to.

PFAS (also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of hazardous chemicals that have been detected in drinking water supplies across the country. More than 100 million Americans are estimated to have PFAS in their tap water and the Department of Defense has identified some 400 military sites that are known or suspected to have PFAS contamination. In addition to firefighting foams, PFAS are also used in a wide range of consumer products, including grease-proof food packaging, waterproof apparel, and stain-resistant carpets.

“Once again Silent Spring Institute is being recognized as a national leader paving the way to ensure that our children, grandchildren, and future generations will be living in an environment with cleaner water to drink,” says Cheryl Osimo, MBCC’s Executive Director. “MBCC is honored to be a community partner on this project, and looks forward to working with both the Cape Cod and Ayer communities.”

In 2018, Silent Spring Institute and their collaborators launched a project, called PFAS-REACH, to investigate the effects of contaminated drinking water on the efficacy of childhood vaccines. The new ATSDR study includes both adults and children and is investigating a wide range of health effects.

“We are pleased to be working with the experienced advocates from Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition on both this ATSDR study and PFAS-REACH,” says project leader Laurel Schaider, PhD, an environmental chemist at Silent Spring Institute. “Engaging community members in learning about their exposures can help them reduce their exposures, talk to their health care providers, or advocate for stronger health and environmental protections, and MBCC is very skilled at building these connections with the community.”

Silent Spring Institute is an independent scientific research organization founded by MBCC.

CDC/ATSDR press release

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition is dedicated to preventing environmental causes of breast cancer through community education, research advocacy, and changes to public policy.  

PFAS in Drinking Water – January 29 Webinar Recording

2019 Water Quality Campaign

A Call to Action!

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) is reaching out to our supporters to contact Martin Suuberg, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), for greater protection of our drinking water.

Millions of people unknowingly have toxic chemicals in their drinking water and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing little to regulate them. In the absence of guidance from the federal government, states are taking their own steps.

PFASs, a class of toxic chemicals in drinking water and consumer products, 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.

The Time to Act is Now!

In June 2018, the MassDEP issued a guideline to regulate PFASs. The guideline is 70 parts per trillion for the total amount of 5 PFAS chemicals in drinking water. MassDEP recommends that public water supplies take steps to keep PFAS levels below this guideline, and pregnant women, nursing mothers, and infants are urged to avoid water that exceeds this guideline. MassDEP’s guideline is somewhat more restrictive than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guideline, which only considers two of these chemicals.

However, scientists are concerned about health effects at lower levels of exposure, and some states have taken action to further restrict PFASs in water. For instance, Vermont’s drinking water guideline is just 20 parts per trillion for the same 5 chemicals-three and a half times lower than MassDEP’s guideline-and New Jersey has developed drinking water standards of just 13 or 14 parts per trillion for three of these individual chemicals.

MassDEP Can Do Better!

While MBCC appreciates that MassDEP is concerned about PFAS and has taken some steps to limit exposure from contaminated public drinking water supplies, additional measures are needed to protect our water supplies and our health.  We are urging MassDEP to issue a more stringent drinking water limit in light of the extreme toxicity of PFAS chemicals, develop requirements for cleanup of PFAS at contaminated sites, and make sure that the public is informed if their water supply has PFAS.

We ask you to please contact Commissioner Martin Suuberg at the MassDEP to urge the Department to protect Massachusetts residents by:

  • Establishing enforceable drinking water standards for PFASs in drinking water below the current 70 parts per trillion consistent with approaches adopted by other states.
  • Establishing soil and groundwater standards for PFASs at contaminated sites. These standards are critical for ensuring that contaminated sites are adequately cleaned up to protect drinking water sources.
  • Asking water testing laboratories to publicly release additional information about PFAS levels in Massachusetts drinking water and make sure consumers are informed. Testing conducted in 2013-15 found that over 40 public water supplies in our state have PFASs but only a handful had levels high enough to be reported.

Contact information for Commissioner Martin Suuberg, MassDEP
by email:
by phone: 617-292-5856
by mail: One Winter St., 2nd floor, Boston, MA 02108

Join MBCC in our efforts to protect future generations!

With over 4,000 PFASs on the global market and emerging understanding of toxic health effects, PFASs pose an enormous public health challenge.

PFASs are a class of toxic chemicals used in many 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.

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. In 2016, an estimated six million Americans were served by a public water supply that exceeded an EPA health guideline for two PFAS chemicals. More recently, the Environmental Working Group estimated that over 100 million Americans have these toxic chemicals in their drinking water.

Communities in Massachusetts are affected too. PFASs have been detected in drinking water sources serving Hyannis, Westfield, Mashpee, Ayer, Devens, Danvers, Hudson, and most recently, Martha’s Vineyard. Other water supplies may have undiscovered contamination.

Thank You for Prioritizing Breast Cancer Prevention!