The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued fish consumption advisories for five Cape Cod waterbodies on Tuesday after detecting high levels of chemicals.
The advisories, which differ for each pond based on the chemicals' levels, provide guidance to people who catch and consume freshwater game fish caught in those areas, according to a DPH statement. They only apply to native game fish and they indicate the safe amount of fish which can be consumed from each location.
The five water bodies affected by the advisories are Johns Pond in Mashpee, Flax Pond in Bourne, Jenkins and Grews Ponds in Falmouth, and Mashpee-Wakeby Pond in Mashpee and Sandwich. Results showed the fish from these ponds had high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a man-made chemical with can be toxic to humans and animals.
DPH officials said that exposure to PFAS has been associated with "changes in liver and kidney function, changes in thyroid hormone and cholesterol levels, and immune system effects." Prolonged exposure to high levels of the chemicals can also cause developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy, and can increase risk of developing cancer, read the statement.
The DPH also tested surface water in 16 Cape water bodies, but it found that PFAS levels were not high enough to warrant swimming advisories.
The tested water bodies were chosen based on their proximity to Joint Base Cape Cod, where historical PFAS contamination has been found before, and because they are popular spots for fishing and other recreational activities.
The U.S. Air Force, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been tackling the contamination near Joint Base Cape Cod for several years, according to the DPH.
The DPH said it is working with local health departments to post notices at the five waterbodies and publicize the advisories to local residents.