All Michiganders have a right to safe water.
PFAS pollution is a public health crisis. Over 2 million Michigan residents live in areas with PFAS in their drinking water sources, and the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), has found PFAS in bodies of water across Michigan.
We need strong leaders to help protect our drinking water, the Great Lakes and the health of all Michiganders. Below are just a few examples of PFAS contamination sites in Michigan:
- Oscoda: Firefighting foam used at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base contaminated soil, ground and drinking water. A “do not eat” advisory was issued for fish in Clark’s Marsh and the Au Sable River and for deer around the base.
- Huron River Watershed: Two automobile supply plants in Wixom discharged PFAS into the Huron River, resulting in high PFAS levels in municipalities along the Huron River watershed and “do not eat” advisories for fish. Water in Ann Arbor exceeded EPA recommendations, requiring advisories and new filtration systems.
- Parchment: PFAS levels 25 times the EPA’s recommended level were detected in Parchment’s drinking water. The contamination is traced to an old paper mill that used PFAS to coat food-wrap paper.
- Rockford: Waste from the Wolverine World Wide tannery and a waste dump in Belmont contaminated surrounding ground, surface, and drinking water with PFAS. This massive contamination has impacted thousands of Michiganders and led to multi-million dollar lawsuits.
How are PFAS used?
PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are a class of nearly 5,000 chemicals used in manufacturing to make user products grease- or water-proof. The chemical industry maintains that short-chain PFAS are safer than the long-chain PFAS they were designed to replace, but studies have shown that short-chain can be just as harmful.
PFAS are commonly used in cookware, food packaging, outdoor apparel, carpets, and firefighting foams. PFAS are also widely used in industrial processes and then discharged into waterways.
Plant foods grown in contaminated soil can absorb short-chain PFAS. Young children exposed to stain-resistant carpeting and water-repellent 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. Filtration systems remove some long-chain PFAS, but most are ineffective in removing short-chain compounds.
What is the problem with PFAS?
- The director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health called PFAS “one of the most seminal public health challenges of the coming decades.”
- PFAS have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, hormone disruption, immune suppression and reproductive problems.
- PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals” since they do not easily break down in the environment and some forms will be with us forever. PFAS builds up in animals and humans. Studies have shown high levels of PFAS in the human liver, lung, kidney, brain and testicles. There is no medically proven way to remove PFAS from our bodies.
- PFAS travel far distances. A recent study found 60 tons of PFAS in the Arctic Ocean.
- Nearly every American has PFAS in their body. They are found in blood, breast milk and even umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.
The map above, depicting PFAS contamination in the US, shows the heavy concentration of PFAS contamination in Michigan. A vast majority of PFAS contamination in Michigan is found in drinking water sites. Visit the Environment Working Group’s (EWG) website to view this interactive map to learn more about PFAS pollution in Michigan and across the country.
PFAS Polluters Should be Held Accountable
- For decades, corporations have profited from the manufacturing and sale of PFAS chemicals in Michigan.
- Recent lawsuits uncovered documents showing that 3M and DuPont (now Chemours) had sufficient information to know of dangers from some of the first PFAS made — PFOA and PFOS — but continued to use them in Michigan for decades.
- Once communities, scientists, and regulators began to understand the heavy health and environmental price of these chemicals, the companies were eventually forced to “voluntarily” stop making them.
- Instead of getting out of the business of PFAS, these companies simply made different versions of PFAS as replacements. These new replacements can have many of the same problematic characteristics as earlier PFAS.
Taxpayers are paying the price for pollution
- The burden of pollution is falling on taxpayers. As of October, 2021 Michigan taxpayers have already spent about $140 million cleaning up PFAS pollution in their communities and providing safe drinking water for residents.
- The cost of remediating and restoring contaminated sites in Michigan is expected to continue growing as MPART finds more contaminated sites across the state.
What Can Decision-Makers Do
The Great Lakes PFAS Action Network came together in 2021 to develop a list of PFAS policy solutions that must be pursued to protect Michigan and the Great Lakes. The PFAS Policy Action Agenda outlines five overall categories that state and federal lawmakers should address with urgency.
PFAS Policy Solutions
Protect and Support PFAS-Impacted Communities
Impacted residents deserve transparency from governmental authorities about the presence of PFAS in their communities. Communities deserve and expect protection from future exposure and access to clean water.
Prevent Future PFAS Contamination
We must reduce the risk to public health, wildlife and the environment by working to eliminate toxic PFAS contamination sources —from waste discharge, firefighting foams, food packaging production, and household products.
Test and Monitor More to Understand Our Full Exposure
To fully understand all the ways in which we are being exposed we need robust and rigorous testing and bio-monitoring. We need to invest in more research and identification of all our exposure pathways to PFAS, while making blood testing accessible so people can understand their health risks.
Hold Corporate and Government Polluters Accountable for Cleanup Costs
Corporations, manufacturers and government agencies who use and discharge PFAS must be held accountable for the impacts on human health and the costs to address it. “Polluters Pay” policies would require corporate polluters, not taxpayers, to pay for cleanup efforts and health care costs for PFAS-impacted communities.
Find Innovative Solutions to Clean Up Existing PFAS Contamination
We must remediate and clean up contaminated sites to stop exposure to PFAS and neutralize the risks it poses to communities. We must use both public and private research institutions to develop innovative ways to safely dispose of PFAS.
What Michigan Legislators Should Do
States across the country are leading the fight in preventing and cleaning up PFAS. In Michigan, our lawmakers have a key role to play in ensuring PFAS does not further contaminate our Great Lakes and the health of Michiganders.
Current legislation in the Michigan State Senate and House aims to prevent PFAS contamination in food packaging, discloses PFAS through warning labels, holds PFAS polluters more accountable, and appropriates funds to clean up contaminated sites. We urge lawmakers to take action on these important policies in order to protect the health of our Great Lakes.
What Congress Should Do
Congress must act to pass comprehensive PFAS policies that put a stop to PFAS contamination while holding the worst polluters responsible. Michigan is at the epicenter of the PFAS crisis, and we are fortunate to have a number of federal lawmakers fighting on our behalf for better PFAS regulations.
Through passing major legislation, such as the PFAS Action Action and the Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act, Congress can take immediate action to “turn off the tap’ on PFAS. Additionally, the bi-partisan House PFAS Task Force should work to pass these important policies through ensuring PFAS are more urgently addressed.