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Higher PFAS levels in Cambridge stir renewed calls for safeguards

PFAS chemicals were detected recently in Cambridge's Fresh Pond. Because of the levels found in its municipal water supply, the city started getting its drinking water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s system.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Mass. sets high drinking water standards, but it lags on prevention

Cambridge, like many other Massachusetts communities, has elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in its drinking water (“Cambridge finds higher PFAS levels in water,” Metro, Aug. 29). Owen O’Riordan, acting city manager, said, “Massachusetts has some of the strictest PFAS standards in the country.”

O’Riordan is right that Massachusetts has been a national leader in setting PFAS standards for drinking water. However, Massachusetts is way behind other states when it comes to actually preventing PFAS contamination.

Toxic PFAS will keep getting into drinking water, and into our bodies, until we stop making and using things with PFAS. Seventeen states have banned PFAS in firefighting foam. Eight have banned PFAS in food packaging. States have banned PFAS in clothing, personal care products, firefighters’ personal protective gear, pesticides, and ski wax. California has banned PFAS in all recyclable or compostable products. Maine requires the elimination of PFAS in most products by 2030.

Massachusetts needs to catch up with the many states that have acted to protect their residents from PFAS in consumer products.


Elizabeth Saunders

Massachusetts director

Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund


‘Forever chemicals’ pose a risk to us all

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down within the environment. The health impacts of these substances may include negative reproductive effects, developmental delays, risk of cancer, and an increase in cholesterol levels. These chemicals also threaten marine life since they are water soluble. PFAS are found not only in our water supply but also in some clothing, rugs, and food packaging. They are extremely prevalent in our everyday lives and pose a risk to us all.

In my research as an intern at Seaside Sustainability, I have been educated on the multitude of dangers that PFAS substances may pose to people, animals, and our environment. When I read about the Walter J. Sullivan Water Purification Facility’s finding of higher levels of PFAS chemicals in Cambridge, I was alarmed yet unfortunately not surprised. The Environmental Protection Agency’s move last month to name two “forever chemicals” hazardous substances is a step in the right direction and extremely important to alert the public on the true danger they pose.


It is essential that people educate themselves on the filters that can be found on the National Sanitation Foundation website in order to protect themselves, their environment, and animals from these chemicals. We envision a future in which PFAS are completely banned.

Skyler Myers

Department manager

Safe and Sustainable Products Team

Seaside Sustainability

Vermilion, Ohio