Read the full article by Hillary Chabot (News@Northeastern)

“Just how toxic is your community?

No, this isn’t about contentious school committee meetings or surly neighbors. Neighborhoods across the country are contaminated with long-lasting, cancer-causing toxins called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, and researchers at Northeastern recently unveiled an interactive, online map that identifies areas with high levels of the chemicals. 

‘We really hope that by putting all of this information together in one easy-to-use place that it can be a resource that is helpful to residents, advocates, and environmental health leaders,’ says Phil Brown, university distinguished professor of sociology and health sciences and director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute.

The invisible, tasteless chemicals accumulate in the blood when ingested through water, food, and air. Exposure to harmful levels of PFAS can lead to decreased fertility, developmental delays in children, and prostate, kidney, or testicular cancer.

PFAS are used in common items such as waterproof jackets, stain-proof food-storage containers, skillets, and carpets. They’re also in firefighting foam, dental floss, and the grease-proof coating used on fast-food containers.

The new map goes beyond the 1,781 known locations in the U.S. with PFAS contamination and includes 57,806 suspected PFAS hotspots, including military bases and firefighter training grounds where firefighting foam is often used. For example, a West Virginia family lost at least 100 cows in 2000 after the DuPont chemical company began using a nearby area as a private landfill.”…