STEEP is focused on two study sites, one in Cape Cod and the other in the Faroe Islands. Barnstable County, Massachusetts, is a Cape Cod area beloved for its sweeping coastline, quaint villages, and welcoming community ambiance. Barnstable County is STEEP’s primary site for community engagement activities. STEEP partner Silent Spring Institute has conducted community-engaged research and activities focused on water quality and public health on Cape Cod for more than 20 years. Their research is wide-ranging and includes PFAS.
The second study site is the Faroe Islands, a self-governing archipelago of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroe Islands consist of 18 islands connected by a network of roads, ferries, subsea tunnels, and bridges. Located in the Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland, these remote islands are the site of STEEP’s epidemiological research, where for decades researchers have studied the impact of persistent chemicals on pre-natal and post-natal health. This continued research enriches STEEP’s understanding of the adverse health impacts of PFAS.
The vast majority of people worldwide are exposed to some level of PFAS due to its ubiquitous presence in a wide range of manufactured products and consumer goods; however, some communities akin to STEEP study sites experience increased exposure from secondary sources. In Cape Cod, the additional exposure to PFAS is linked to contaminated groundwater that finds its way to residents’ tap water. Communities in the Faroe Islands may have experienced additional exposure linked to a cultural tradition of consuming pilot whale meat and blubber.