What you need to know about PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, are a group of over 3,000 man-made chemicals used in various industries around the world since the 1950s. Recently, researchers, scientists, and public health officials have grown increasingly concerned with the threat that PFAS pose to our water, soil, and people.

Where are PFAS found?

  • In soil and water contaminated by manufacturing or other past land-use practices, such as firefighter training facilities.
  • Food packaging such as fast-food wrappers, popcorn bags, and pizza boxes.
  • Food grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or processed with PFAS-contaminated equipment.
  • Fish and other animals where PFAS have bioaccumulated.
  • Commercial household products including nonstick cooking products, polishes, waxes, stain-resistant fabrics, water-resistant fabrics, cleaning products, fire-fighting foam, and upholstery and fabric treated with flame-retardants (including some carpets and rugs).
  • Industrial facilities that use PFAS, such as electronic manufacturing and chrome plating sites.
The Environmental Working Group created this interactive map regarding PFAS sites.

PFAS in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed?

Yes, there are several sites within the Grand Traverse Bay watershed that are being investigated for PFAS contamination. Some of these sites are in Blair Township and the Village of Elk Rapids. Find MPART’s interactive map here

How can I be exposed to PFAS?

  • Humans are exposed to PFAS through ingestion, including drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated foods, or direct contact with surfaces that contain PFAS.
  • PFAS are believed to take a very long time to break down, and they can move through the soils and seep into groundwater.

What are the human health effects of PFAS?

PFAS have been linked to low birthweight, elevated cholesterol, immune system defects, hormone disruption, reduced fertility, developmental issues, and increased risks of certain types of cancers. Learn more here.

Who regulates PFAS?

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates some PFAS compounds in manufacturing through the Toxic Substance Control Act and the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act though they have not yet set maximum contamination levels (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA has issued a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for two classes of PFAS: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
  • In 2020, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) established maximum contamination levels (MCL) for 7 PFAS compounds under the authority of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act. More information can be found here.
  • The State of Michigan’s Rule 323.1057 of the Part 4, Water Quality Standards outlines standards for some PFAS chemicals in surface water discharges. More information can be found here.

Is the State of Michigan responding to the PFAS threat?

The State of Michigan launched a multi-agency PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) in 2017 “to investigate sources and locations of PFAS contamination in the state, take action to protect people’s drinking water, and keep the public informed as we learn more about this nationally emerging contaminant.” More information can be found here.

What can I do to protect myself and my family from PFAS?

  • Limit your use of and contact with PFAS-containing products and materials and look for alternatives that clearly state they are PFAS-free.
  • Avoid consumption of fish and animals that could potentially contain harmful levels of PFAS. Learn more here fish consumption advisories here.
  • Talk to your local health department or municipality if you have concerns about your well or municipal water source.