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Addressing Health Risks and Regulation of 1,4 Dioxane in Eastham, MA

Dr. Madeleine Scammell (CEC & RTC) and Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays (RTC) presented to a packed audience on the health risks and regulation of 1,4 Dioxane at the Eastham Town Hall on Tuesday February 11, 2014. They were invited to present at the Landfill Community Update Forum by the Town Health Agent as part of BU SRP’s ongoing community engagement and risk communication related to the Eastham landfill. The audience and presenters included multiple stakeholders, including residents, and MassDEP. Recent identification of the contamination of private drinking water wells by 1, 4- dioxane in Eastham, Massachusetts, has resulted in an extensive monitoring program coordinated by the Town of Eastham Board of Health (BOH). The Town of Eastham is one of the last towns in Massachusetts without a municipal drinking water supply. A major source of 1,4 dioxane is the municipal landfill, followed by potential contamination by septic systems.


Dr. Scammell began the report by explaining to the standing room-only attendees of the public forum that she and Dr. Heiger-Bernays hoped to address questions in the community regarding the health risks of 1,4 dioxane and its regulation. Dr. Scammell provided an overview of the safe drinking water act as well as how standards are set given current technology and analytics. The current Massachusetts guideline for 1,4-dioxane is based on cancer risk and is not legally enforceable which is partially due to the lack of testing and treatment technology. She explained further that the EPA determined that 1,4 dioxane is likely in humans but it is not a certain carcinogen in humans because of very few studies of humans with inconclusive findings. Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, a toxicologist by training, talked about non-cancer health outcomes associated with 1,4 dioxane, providing additional information on how drinking water standards are derived, risk assessment as it pertains to 1,4 dioxane, and how the MassDEP guideline was developed. Dr. Heiger-Bernays also responded to questions from the audience.


The public forum also included a landfill status update from MassDEP and a water supply update.

For more information, check out a video recording of the forum available online courtesy of the Town of Eastham, MA.

Media Coverage:

Water woes: Consultants, toxicologists discuss well contaminant extent, risks.

Affiliated Institutions

The Superfund Research Program at Boston University

Supported with funding from the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Superfund Research Program

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