HomeOpinionTo the Editor: On PFAS, Too Little, Too Late?

To the Editor: On PFAS, Too Little, Too Late?

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20th Century Homes

Dear Editor,

I was heartened by the HopNews report that two PFAS filtration tanks were installed at the Fruit Street pump station in January. Yet, I can’t help but wonder, is this too little, too late for long-time Hopkinton residents like me who may have already been dangerously exposed?  

PFAS are so-called “forever chemicals” used to make a wide range of consumer and industrial products, from non-stick cookware to firefighting foams. Lacking color or odor, they can contaminate water supplies, rising levels in a person’s body over time. A growing body of science shows that exposure at high levels is associated with risk of abnormally high cholesterol, immune system dysfunction and even some cancers.

In January, I had my blood levels tested for PFAS using a new consumer-initiated test from Quest Diagnostics on questhealth.com that includes a third-party physician consult. I was shocked when the results showed my personal levels are at an intermediate rather than low level of health risk. Unlike firefighters, members of the military and people living near industrial sites, I am not someone who should be concerned about dangerous PFAS exposure – and yet, my blood test shows I’ve accumulated an unacceptable level of these chemicals in my body.

I can’t help but wonder if drinking Hopkinton water has endangered my health. In recent years, PFAS levels in the water supply have at times ranged well above the 20 ng/L considered the “maximum contaminant level” by the MassDEP.

Citizens of Hopkinton should know they must take special measures to reduce risk, considering they may have been exposed like me. The CDC provides helpful information on PFAS health risks and ways to lower exposure risk at Potential health effects of PFAS chemicals. Quest also provides helpful information on PFAS at questhealth.com

It is wonderful to know PFAS filtration tanks are now clearing the water of dangerous PFAS chemicals, but some Hopkinton residents may have already paid a price from years of PFAS contamination. 

Sincerely,

Karthik Kuppusamy, Ph.D., Hopkinton, MA 01748

P.S. Since 2014, I have been a resident of Hopkinton and also a Quest Diagnostics employee.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Seems like the town should be paying for some residents, who meet a specific criteria, to get this test in order to get a handle on how bad the situation is.

  2. I do not trust the filter bandaid. I am concerned how closely the water will be tested and how functional the filters actual are and how quickly they will wear out? I find it insulting that the town focuses on much more expensive projects over providing clean, safe water for everyone! I do not understand the hesitation to spend the money to get access to actual clean, safe water through connection to neighboring town.

  3. Thank you for speaking up about this! Can’t believe the town has not taken more responsibility for this with the PFAS issue. There are many young families, children, pregnant mothers who are at risk for adverse health effects from PFAS exposure. I hope the town will help these populations get tested for PFAS.

  4. EPA and MassDEP in calculating “safe” exposure to PFOS determined the best studies available (typically in animals) and then add safety (aka uncertainty) factors of 30 – 3000 (chemical specific; depends on the quality of the base data) to ensure that an exposed population (i.e., us) is protected. What that means is that the 20 ug/L (and future planned adjustments to even lower levels) are definitely safe; we would not expect to see effects in humans (i.e., again, us) until levels were at least 30 times higher. EPA and MassDEP do this to ensure our safety. The downside is that if these “definitely safe” levels are exceeded, it is logical to assume that the exceedence is not safe but that is NOT the case. Rather, what this means is that the margin of exposure between what is a likely unsafe exposure (a really unsafe dose) and our exposure (slightly exceeding a “safe” dose is too small.

  5. All towns should be doing something. The question to ask is where is the PFAS going once it is in the filters? A landfill? Being incinerated and going into the air? For those concerned about PFAS exposure, also look into other ways it can enter your body. It’s a lot more than drinking water.

  6. why can’t we hook up to clean water that is available in other towns?

    It’s my understanding the wells are assigned by area. Do the filters cover all of wells that cover the whole town?

  7. According to the Select Board’s agenda for their meeting tonight (Tues., 2/20 @ 6 pm), the Town Manager will be giving an update on the PFAS project, along with a few other lagging projects.

    I’m not anticipating that we’ll have any new info…but there’s always hope.

    TOWN MANAGER REPORT
    The Town Manager will report on the following:
    a. Main Street Corridor Project
    b. Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) treatment project
    c. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Southborough Interconnection project
    d. Draft Hopkinton Affordable Housing Corporation Charge

  8. An exerpt from the following study:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8915917/

    In addition to indoor environments and water, the greatest source of PFAS exposure is estimated to be through diet via the intake of contaminated foods (Ericson et al., 2008; Domingo and Nadal, 2017). Seafood consumption has been shown to be a key source of dietary PFAS. In 2018, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) estimated that up to 86% of dietary exposure to PFAS from food comes from “fish and other seafood” (EFSA, 2018). Furthermore, PFAS have been measured in U.S. rivers and lakes, and data collected from the 2007–2014 U.S. NHANES found that higher serum PFAS levels are associated with greater fish and shellfish consumption (Stahl et al., 2014; Christensen et al., 2017). Although to a lesser extent than seafood, the EFSA also identified meat products and dairy products as contributors to dietary exposure to PFAS (EFSA, 2018). Studies across Europe and Asia have found contamination of dairy and meat products with PFAS are frequently detected but at low concentrations (Hlouskova et al., 2013; Barbarossa et al., 2014; Heo et al., 2014). In the U.S. FDA’s Total Diet Study, which is an ongoing program monitoring levels of contaminants in the average U.S. diet, low levels of PFAS were detected in milk products, the highest being PFOA at 42 parts per trillion and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) at 39 parts per trillion (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2019). PFAS levels in cheeses were also measured at no < 200 ppt, with perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA). In addition, PFAS have also been shown to enter and bioaccumulate in food crops after being taken up from the soil or water (Lechner and Knapp, 2011; Herzke et al., 2013; Blaine et al., 2014). Lastly, food contamination can occur indirectly through migration of PFAS from food packaging or cookware (Susmann et al., 2019). Studies have detected up to 46 PFAS in food packaging materials, such as microwave popcorn bags, at levels between 3.5 and 750 ng/g (Moreta and Tena, 2014; Zabaleta et al., 2017). However, no PFAS were detected in the popcorn after cooking, and whether or not this route of dietary exposure contributes significantly to the overall body burden remains inconclusive (Tittlemier et al., 2006; Vestergren et al., 2008; Jogsten et al., 2009; D'Hollander et al., 2010; Moreta and Tena, 2014).

    The municipality has a plan to treat our municipal water supply. The United States needs a plan to remove PFAS and other related products from our food supply.

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