With news from an environmental group Monday that Michigan has the most PFAS sites in the nation, a recent state advisory has taken on added importance.

According to a report released by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, Michigan has 192 PFAS sites, much higher than the state's 49 official contamination sites. The report's number is much higher because the group’s report includes sites where testing found levels of PFAS below the federal health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. The group is seeking a PFAS standard of 1 part per trillion because it considers the chemicals to be incredibly toxic.

That news comes on the heels of a warning issued last week by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to completely avoid PFAS foam, a white, sticky substance found on many Michigan shorelines that is a byproduct of PFAS contamination. Prior warnings about the foam advised against swallowing it, but new data shows high concentrations of unsafe chemicals in the foam, according to Deb MacKenzie-Taylor, toxicology and response section manager at DHHS.
"The main concern is for swallowing the foam or getting on their hands and their eating something. If you accidentally touch it and wash it off, you're OK."

MacKenzie-Taylor says that animal studies indicate that PFAS exposure can lead to developmental delays and a compromised immune system in breastfeeding babies and developing fetuses. For adults, the data indicates that people who have high exposures – 3 hours a day, five days a week for three months – may have a higher risk of testicular and kidney cancer. "Most of the concerns are for changes in cholesterol levels. For women having a harder time becoming pregnant, and if they are pregnant for high blood pressure associated with pregnancy, called eclampsia."

Naturally occurring foam often is beige and has a marine smell. PFAS foam, which comes from firefighting chemicals that have leached into the groundwater, is bright white and piles up like shaving cream – and that could entice children and animals to play with it. The website Michigan.gov/PFASresponse advises owners to thoroughly rinse pets that come in contact with the foam. It also lists the pollution reporting hotline – so people can request the foam be removed. Public News Service assisted with this report. Picture - MI DHHS. (JK)