WHAT IS PFAS?
PFAS are widely used, long lasting chemicals which do not break down in the environment, hence why they are often referred to as "forever chemicals". Because of their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, PFAS are found in human blood and animals, including livestock right here in Michigan. Even more challenging, some PFAS can build up in people and animals with repeated exposure over time. Michigan is tracking pathways for PFAS moving into soil and agriculture and has set a drinking water standard to limit PFAS exposure through drinking water.
In March of 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its first-ever legal standard for two PFAS “forever chemicals” -- PFOS and PFOA -- proposing a limit of no more than 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for each chemical in drinking water. Read Sierra Club's statement on this historic news.
WHERE IS PFAS FOUND?
Water: public water systems, drinking water wells, soil, lakes and ponds
Makeup: foundations, waterproof mascaras, lip products, lotions, nail polish, eyeliner, shaving cream
Food: seafood, meat, dairy, grains, carbonated water, non-carbonated bottled water
Food Packaging: food wrappers, microwaveable popcorn bags, takeout containers, pet food bags
Product Coatings: carpet, leather, clothing, packaging material, nonstick cookware
WHY IS IT A PROBLEM?
PFAS chemicals are everywhere in the environment, concentrate up the food chain, and are toxic to people and animals. Because of this, PFAS never leaves the environment and it can accumulate in soil, water, and agricultural products far from the location where it was produced and used.
They are detected in most people worldwide and are linked to a variety of health problems including:
- kidney and testicular cancer
- immune system damage
- high cholesterol and digestive system problems
- negative changes to liver, thyroid, and pancreatic function
PFAS exposure during pregnancy and childhood can also permanently impair children's brain development. Children with high levels of PFAS exposure have weaker immune systems and less robust response to childhood vaccinations.
MICHIGAN AND PFAS
Michigan has conducted some the most comprehensive PFAS testing in the country and found widespread contamination across the state. According to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) more than 1.5 million residents have drinking water contaminated with PFAS and more contaminated sites are still being discovered.
THE BIG SOLUTION TO A BIG PROBLEM
There are no successful methods to effectively clean up PFAS; the best solution to protect public health and the environment is to ban their use and sale. Until a complete ban on the sale and use of PFAS is in place, our state and country must phase out the use of PFAS as quickly as possible--especially in situations where safer compounds are available. Furthermore, emerging contaminants like PFAS show that we must demand that companies prove that their products are safe before they go on the market. Our broken regulatory system requires us to show we are being harmed, instead of chemical manufacturers proving that their products won't hurt us. This is backwards and needs to be changed.
Michigan has taken multiple steps to protect our communities from PFAS
- Attorney General Dana Nessel has taken legal action against some of the worst offendors responsible for PFAS contamination in the state
- Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) enacted PFAS drinking water standards
- The state invested $1.4 million to collect and safely dispose of surplus PFAS-containing aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) held by fire departments and commercial airports across. Through this program, Michigan collected 51,404 gallons of AFFF for disposal.
- Governor Whitmer signed an executive order banning the state from purchasing products containing PFAS
- Michigan continues to do some of the most extensive testing in the country to determine the scope of PFAS contamination in the state's soil and water