The more we look, the more we find.
In 2018, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE, formerly the DEQ) began searching for the chemicals in all public water systems and schools on private well water. To date, test results from 2017 and 2018 show that some form of the chemicals have been found at some level in the municipal drinking water serving more than 2 million people around the state.
Dozens of contamination sites are found in both the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan; in urban, suburban and rural settings alike. Pollution sources include chemical-based firefighting foam used by military bases, airports and fire departments, as well as industrial chemicals previously or currently used by active manufacturers and either put into lakes and rivers via wastewater or dumped at waste disposal sites.
The chemicals have been found in groundwater, surface water bodies like lakes and rivers, as well as the Great Lakes -- and in drinking water pulled from each source type.
“We’ve got a lot of locations that have been discovered in the state because we’ve been looking,” said Liesl Clark, director of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Authority says PFAS are persistent in the environment, don’t break down in the human body and present several adverse health risks. PFOA and PFOS are the most-studied and scientists are accelerating research on the class of chemicals, many of which are flowing into water sources with no publicly available information on their health risks to people and the environment.
From the late 1940s to the 2000s, PFAS was the 3M Corporation's wonder product. The compounds made by the Minnesota-based company repelled grease and water, so they could be used for a host of processes and consumer products, from wrapping paper for hamburgers to microwave popcorn bags, from nonstick cookware to carpet and upholstery stain guards, from waterproofing shoes and clothes to use in chrome plating industries and even dental floss. The qualities that made it so useful, however, also make it virtually impossible to break down in nature — giving the compounds the ominous nickname "the forever chemical."
PFAS can now be found in the blood of nearly 99% of Americans. It has even been found in polar bears in the Arctic Circle, as the chemicals have worked their way up the food chain from fish and seals.The ramifications from PFAS's widespread use, its persistence and its harm continue to reverberate in Michigan and elsewhere:
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