Read the full article by Bronwen Howells Walsh

“Silent Spring Institute was recently awarded a $2.6 million federal grant to investigate highly fluorinated PFAS chemicals and their impacts on Hyannis children’s health…

Laurel Schaider, a Silent Spring Institute research scientist, leads the institute’s Cape Cod water quality research on PFASs and other contaminants of emerging concern. She visited Barnstable Town Hall on Oct. 24.

‘We are concerned about early life exposures,’ Schaider said. ‘Infants and children are especially vulnerable to the impacts of PFASs.’

Young children’s bodies are more vulnerable to chemical exposures, said Schaider, who is leading the five-year project called PFAS-REACH, short for Research, Education, and Action for Community Health. A collaboration with researchers at Northeastern University and Michigan State University, the project is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Starting next spring, Schaider and her colleagues will collect blood samples from children (ages 4-6) in Hyannis and Portsmouth, NH, two communities that have been exposed to drinking water contaminated with PFASs. The researchers will measure PFASs and antibody levels in samples taken shortly after the children receive their final diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.

The team will also look for markers of other physiological effects, such as metabolites, or small molecules linked with inflammation.

‘Because PFASs can depress the immune system, our hypothesis is that vaccines are less effective in children with high exposures,’ Schaider said.

The project team will also document the experiences of affected communities by conducting in-depth interviews and ethnographic research.

‘Environmental contamination not only impacts people’s health, it also exacts a toll on the community’s social, psychological, and economic well-being,’ said co-principal investigator Phil Brown, director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University.

‘By documenting this impact, communities can gain a better understanding of their circumstances that will allow them to advocate for themselves,’ Brown said.”

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