Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of thousands of chemicals widely used in manufacturing and consumer products. They are often referred to as “forever” chemicals, because their strong carbon-fluoride bonds don’t break down in nature. PFOS and PFOA were phased out in 2010, but continue to pollute our environment. Moreover, we are detecting newer PFAS in our water, soil, fish, and wildlife.
The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), has found PFAS in bodies of water across Michigan. Over 2,000,000 Michigan residents live in areas with PFAS in their drinking water sources. Some major sites include:
These are only a few examples of the many contaminated sites across our state!
In August 2020, the State of Michigan adopted new maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), limiting seven PFAS chemiclas in municipal drinking water. These new standards added 38 new sites to MPART's portfolio of ongoing PFAS investigations, bringing the number of groundwater sites in Michigan exceeding the PFAS MCL to 148. More information on these PFAS contamination sites can be found on the MPART website. These 148 sites only include groundwater investigations - there is even more PFAS contamination in Michigan. Sites with contaminated surface water or soil also exist across the state.
PFAS has been detected in human blood, semen, and breast milk. PFAS can cross the placenta, exposing unborn children. Studies of people exposed to high levels of PFAS have shown links to:
Recent studies have shown that PFAS can mimic human hormones including thyroid, estrogen and testosterone, resulting in low function. One study looking at young men exposed to high levels of PFAS over long periods of time found lower testosterone activity resulting in smaller genitalia and lower sperm counts.
Evidence also suggests that PFAS chemicals may be exacerbating the effects of the novel coronavirus. Because PFAS suppresses the immune system, it could increase the risk of catching the virus. Concern also surrounds the possibility that PFAS exposure could limit the effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine. Studies have confirmed the association between PFAS exposure and reduced antibody responses and other adverse immune-related impacts. As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt in Michigan and across the U.S., it is imperative to reduce PFAS exposure to prevent further comorbidities.
In addition to drinking water, fish and wildlife, PFAS are in food packaging, non-stick cookware, polishes, waxes, paints, cosmetics, cleaning products and many other goods. Plant foods grown in contaminated soil can take up the short-chain PFAS. Young children exposed to stain-resistant carpeting and water repellant surfaces can absorb PFAS from hand-to-mouth contact. PFAS levels can be detected in almost every human being on our planet. It is virtually impossible to get rid of PFAS: