With the summer recreation season getting underway, Livingston County residents and others across the state are being reminded to avoid foam on lakes and rivers known to have PFAS.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says foam on certain water bodies can have much higher amounts of PFAS than the water, and swallowing foam with PFAS could be a health risk. Officials say anyone who touches foam from per-fluoroalkyl and pol-fluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS should wash it off. Levels of PFAS in foam can vary, but the chemicals are often more highly concentrated in foam than in surface water. Swimming or bathing in water containing PFAS is not a health concern because the amount of PFAS is typically low compared to the foam. Although swallowing PFAS is the main way to get it in your body, an accidental swallow of river or lake water is not said to be a health concern.

MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin tells WHMI there are advisories on several bodies of water in the state, including the Huron River in Southeast Michigan but people might not always know which ones have those substances. She says people can talk with local officials or refer to the state website dedicated to PFAS to learn about advisories for local lakes and rivers but notes that one rule of thumb is that not all foam contains PFAS. Sutfin says there is naturally occurring foam that will pile up in bays, eddies or river barriers such as dams but that foam will typically be off-white or brown in color and may have an earthy or fishy smell.

When talking about PFAS foam, Sutfin says it’s typically bright white, lightweight and sticky and tends to pile up on the shore like shaving cream and can blow onto the beach. She says the fact that it tends to pile up like shaving cream on the shores is what brings concerns so they’re issuing the advisory again to remind people not to touch the foam, as kids might want to play with it because it looks kind or fun or interesting. Sutfin says although PFAS doesn’t pass easily through the skin, there are concerns about incidental ingestion so they advise people to just avoid the foam and take a bath or shower if they’ve been in it or are coming off the water to get it cleaned off. She says they are also recommending that people do not let animals, but especially dogs, come into contact with the foam as they could potentially swallow the foam when it collects in their fur and they groom themselves. Sutfin says if they do happen get into any foamy water, their recommendation is the same and just make sure to thoroughly rinse them off with fresh water.

Complete information about known sites with PFAS foam and other advisories can be found through the provided link. (JM)