PFASs in drinking water (STEEP)

The STEEP Superfund Research Program Center was established to address the emerging and expanding problem of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in drinking water—how these contaminants move through our environment, how we are exposed through drinking water, and how they affect our health. The five-year project, led by the University of Rhode Island (URI), is a collaboration between URI, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Environmental Health, and Silent Spring Institute. 

PFASs are a class of chemicals added to consumer products to make them non-stick, waterproof, and stain-resistant. They are also used in firefighting foams and industrial processes. These chemicals are showing up in drinking water supplies across the United States. Scientists are concerned about these chemicals because of their potential impacts on health. One of the communities that is on the front lines in dealing with exposure to PFASs is Cape Cod, Mass. As a result, Silent Spring Institute and their STEEP collaborators are conducting a number of activities on the Cape, including:

  • Testing private wells for PFASs
  • Studying how PFASs enter groundwater from firefighting foams used at Joint Base Cape Cod
  • Field testing new methods to detect PFASs in surface waters
  • Engaging with residents and officials to share STEEP research findings and address local concerns

STEEP scientists are also studying the chemical properties of PFASs and their specific impact on human health through a long-term health study of children in the Faroe Islands complemented by laboratory studies.

Local project partners include the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) and the Sierra Club Cape & the Islands group. This project is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

For more information, visit the STEEP website.