Chemist Discusses PFAS Contamination, Remediation Efforts
January 24, 2019
A presentation in Howell focused on a group of chemicals affecting local bodies of water and what’s being done to mitigate the problem.
The League of Women Voters of the Brighton/Howell Area sponsored the PFAS informational session held Wednesday at the Howell Carnegie Library. Stephen Brown, a PhD trained analytical chemist with 45 years of experience, was the featured speaker, sharing an overview of the chemical contamination. Brown began by discussing PFC, or Per-fluoro-chemicals, which is a group of approximately 4,700 chemicals used to make coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. While some of the chemicals are known to be found in construction materials, electronics and firefighting foam, Dr. Brown says there are other products that consumers should be wary of, including dental floss, food packaging, microwave popcorn bags, fast food wrappers, and coffee and takeout cups.
There are a number of known health risks associated with significant exposure to the chemicals, including immune deficiency, lower birth weight and birth defects, preeclampsia, thyroid deficiencies, higher cholesterol and cancer, particularly testicular cancer.
Included in the PFC class are per- and polyfluroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS and PFOS. Dr. Brown says there is a lot that is still unknown about the emerging group of chemicals, including how many bodies of water are affected worldwide and what a safe level of exposure is.
Livingston County residents were warned last summer not to eat fish from the Huron River after fish from Kent Lake were discovered to have high levels of PFOS. A number of sources contributing to the contamination have been identified across the state and measures to reduce and eventually eliminate their contribution have since been implemented.
Dr. Brown says public drinking water sources and some residential well testing by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Livingston County is also helping to identify any missed problem areas. Locally, the Huron River Watershed Council is working with the state to potentially identify other contributing sources they may not know about. And, on a global level, Dr. Brown reports efforts are underway to develop a method for destroying the chemicals.
A video of the presentation can be accessed through the link below. (DK)