Michigan communities chosen for federal PFAS exposure study

Former Fire Training Area #2 was operated at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan, from 1958-1991. PFAS chemicals have been discovered there | Breanne Humphreys, Air Force

WASHINGTON — The federal government announced Monday that Michigan is one of seven states chosen for a study of the human health effects of exposures to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through drinking water. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry announced that it will partner with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to assess PFAS exposure in Parchment/Cooper Township and North Kent County. 

PFAS — chemicals used in everything from fire-fighting foam to clothing and nonstick pans — have caused alarm in communities across the country. They have been linked to cancer and other serious health problems, and environmental and public health advocates want faster cleanup and strict guidelines for the allowable limits of the chemicals in drinking water.

The study will collect information about a range of health impacts, but won’t be large enough to “effectively evaluate the relationship between PFAS exposure and cancer,” according to the government. 

Report: Michigan has most PFAS sites in the nation

The federal agencies overseeing the study said they understand that “addressing cancer is a major concern for some community members” and officials are continuing to look at other ways to study links between PFAS and cancer. 

In July 2018, Parchment’s public water supply system became the first system in Michigan with PFAS levels over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory level, according to the state. 

Michigan has the most sites in the country known to be contaminated with PFAS, according to a report released in May. 

Some studies in people have shown that exposure to certain PFAS might adversely impact growth of infants and children, lower women’s chance of getting pregnant, increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk for some cancers, according to the CDC. 

‘This is ridiculous’ — Michigan lawmakers slam corporations on PFAS

Similar PFAS exposure studies will also take place in Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and California. 

These exposure studies were authorized in defense spending bills for fiscal 2018 and 2019.

Michigan lawmakers are pushing for additional PFAS reforms in the fiscal 2020 spending bill, but those efforts have encountered resistance from the White House. U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) are among those slated to appear at a press conference Tuesday morning in Washington to call for the PFAS measures to be retained in the final defense spending bill. 

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