Private Drinking Water Wells

Expanding its research on hormonal pollutants leaching from septic systems into groundwater and public drinking water supplies on Cape Cod, Silent Spring Institute conducted a study of pharmaceuticals, hormones, and household chemicals in private drinking water wells. The Institute partnered with Cape Cod residents with private wells who volunteered to participate.

In May of 2010, Silent Spring Institute researchers found low levels of consumer product chemicals and pharmaceuticals in three quarters of Cape Cod public drinking water wells that they tested. Septic systems are likely the main source of the contaminants, which included pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals.

Silent Spring Institute tested for the same compounds in private wells, which are thought to be more vulnerable to contamination by septic systems and other sources of groundwater pollution. Most of the target chemicals are not currently regulated in drinking water and the health effects of low levels of exposures are not known.

“We are targeting many of these chemicals because laboratory studies show they can mimic hormones such as estrogen or cause cancer in animals,” said Dr. Laurel Schaider, a research scientist at Silent Spring Institute and the study director. “In order to understand the health implications and plan for exposure reduction, we need to learn more about patterns and sources of exposure.”

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