PFAS Action For Candidates

A Guide to PFAS Pollution

All Michiganders have a right to safe food and water

  • 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. 
  • Firefighting foam used at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Waste from the Wolverine World Wide tannery in Rockford 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

PFAS pollution is a public health crisis. We need strong leaders to help solve this non-stick nightmare. 

PFAS water

Over 2 million Michigan residents have been exposed to PFAS

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. They 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 the 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. 

ARE ALL PFAS A PROBLEM?

  • All PFAS have one or more carbon-fluorine bonds that prevent them from breaking down in the environment. Scientists from around the world are calling on governments to eliminate the entire class of PFAS where possible due to the significant human health and environmental impacts.

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. 

Polluting is profitable

  • 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 March 2019, Michigan taxpayers have already spent $65.7 million on 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 escalate the overall expenditure to hundreds of millions of dollars. 
For source materials on the statistics shown above, click on these links: Chemours 2018 Net Sales3M 2018 Net Sales.

What must Michigan do to address PFAS? 

  • Focus on prevention, not just treatment, by banning the use of all firefighting foams containing PFAS and prohibiting the use of PFAS in food contact materials. Safer alternatives are available for use.
  • Assure all state purchasing eliminates the purchase of PFAS-containing products where they are non-essential or when safer alternatives exist.
  • Provide adequate funding to continue testing for PFAS, remediation of contaminated sites, and treatment funds for water utilities and private well users to provide safe drinking water. 
  • Create a publicly available database and maps of all known sites of contamination (PFAS and other contaminants of concern), along with test results as they are received.
  • Establish state medical monitoring and biomonitoring programs, the costs for which are to be covered by insurance and/or the party responsible for the contamination.
  • Hold polluters accountable for contamination so municipalities and tax payers are not left footing the bill.