21. Should I stop growing and eating vegetables using co-compost that may have PFAS?

Significant research is underway to better answer this question. At this point, home grown produce likely contributes to less PFAS exposure than drinking water or food products like eggs and seafood. While PFAS may be present in co-compost, it is likely diluted when mixed with surrounding soils, so less PFAS ends up in the plants.  Note that co-compost has not been available to the public since August 2019.

The benefits of a healthy diet are likely to outweigh the potential risk from PFAS in home grown vegetables. All home-grown produce should be rinsed to remove any residual soil/co-compost and you should wash your hands after working in the garden.   Check out this biosolids fact sheet for more information: https://www.nebiosolids.org/pfas-biosolids

Want to learn more about how PFAS travels from soil or co-compost into plants?

Many factors affect how PFAS ends up in plants, including: 

  • soil conditions: organic carbon, clay content, etc. 
  • produce type: leafy green, root vegetable, fruit, etc.
  • PFAS concentrations in the co-compost/soil or irrigation water 
  • PFAS type: short chain versus long chain. Short-chain compounds are thought to pose less risk to human health than long chain. 

We generally know that shorter chain compounds that are more soluble (dissolved) in water are more likely to be found in the fruit of a plant. On the other hand, long chain compounds (like PFOS and PFOA) tend to stick to soils or translocate (move) into and store in the plant’s roots or leaves.

Check out Waste Options Nantucket Fact Sheet on Co-Compost sampling at: https://www.nantucket-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/38499/Fact-Sheet-for-Nantucket-Compost-PDF 

The current, limited studies on health risk from eating produce, indicate that daily intake of PFOS and PFOA from produce is far below the health risk levels established in the U.S. and abroad. A USEPA study1,2 estimated that a person would need to eat nearly 2 to 3 pounds of lettuce a day to be above the recommended safe intake rate for PFOA and PFOS in lettuce, assuming lettuce was their only PFAS exposure.

   Cited References

  1. Felizeter, S., McLachlan, M.S. and De Voogt, P., 2012. Uptake of perfluorinated alkyl acids by hydroponically grown lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Environmental Science & Technology, 46(21), pp.11735-11743.
  2. Ghisi, R., Vamerali, T. and Manzetti, S., 2019. Accumulation of perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in agricultural plants: a review. Environmental Research, 169, pp.326-341.

Show All Answers

1. 20. What can residents, businesses, and visitors can do to prevent exposure to PFAS?
2. 21. Should I stop growing and eating vegetables using co-compost that may have PFAS?
3. 22. Can I water my plants and garden with PFAS-contaminated water and eat that produce?
4. 23. How can I limit my exposure to PFAS in my garden?
5. 24. What are the PFAS levels in fertilizer and other soil products coming onto the Island?
6. 25. Waste Options Nantucket makes products for beneficial re-use. What are they?
7. 26. Is it safe to shower using domestic well water that contains PFAS?
8. 27. Is it safe for me to bathe my baby using domestic (private) well water that contains PFAS?
9. 28. What can I do as a private well owner to remove PFAS from my water?
10. 29. Am I at risk if I drink or drank water with PFAS above health standards?
11. 30. Is there a way to test my or my family’s blood serum levels for PFAS?