PFAS advisory: State asks people to limit or not eat fish caught at 5 Cape Cod ponds

Johns Pond in Mashpee is one of five freshwater ponds on the Upper Cape where fish tested positive for PFAS chemical contamination. State public health officials are urging people to limit consumption of the fish or not eat them at all. Image credit: Cape Cod Times file photo

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has advised people to not eat or limit consumption of fish from five Cape Cod freshwater ponds after fish from the ponds were found to contain PFAS. In particular, children under 12, women of childbearing age, and pregnant and nursing women were advised to avoid these fish. This group of women and children are thought to be most susceptible to the chemicals’ health effects.

The ponds the advisory applies to are Flax Pond in Bourne, Grews and Jenkins ponds in Falmouth, Johns Pond in Mashpee, and Mashpee-Wakeby Pond in Mashpee and Sandwich. These popular fishing spots are all located near Joint Base Cape Cod, a known source of PFAS contamination due to the use of firefighting foams in training exercises. STEEP researcher Laurel Schaider of the Silent Spring Institute commented that she’s happy the state is “taking PFAS seriously and testing fish in ponds known to have PFAS contamination.”

Officials have already been testing drinking water and bodies of freshwater for PFAS, and Massachusetts set PFAS limits for drinking water in 2020. The Silent Spring Institute has been involved in testing Cape Cod’s drinking water, finding PFAS contamination in numerous wells. “It’s not surprising to find PFAS in fish, particularly in areas where groundwater and surface water are contaminated with PFAS from firefighting foams,” Schaider said.

The surface waters tested on Cape Cod have been deemed safe for swimming and recreational activities. However, to avoid unsafe PFAS exposures the public is advised to limit how often they consume fish caught in each pond where contaminated fish were found. Schaider noted, “You can remove PFAS from well water with filters. Unfortunately, there’s no way to remove PFAS from fish.”

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