What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

PFAS can be found in:

  • Food packaged in PFAS-containing materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water.

  • Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams (a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs).

  • Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery) that use PFAS.

  • Drinking water, typically localized and associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility).

  • Living organisms, including fish, animals and humans, where PFAS have the ability to build up and persist over time.

The State of Michigan is working proactively to identify locations where PFAS may be present as a contaminant. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is conducting testing in drinking water, groundwater, lakes & streams, soils, sediments, wastewater, and the PFAS foam that can accumulate at lakes and rivers. MDEQ is also partnering with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to test fish and wildlife; MDHHS works with local health departments to issue any necessary health advisories.

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