PFAS Contamination Crisis: New Data Show 610 Sites in 43 States – Most in Michigan

PFAS map
Per-and polyfluorinated substances, known as PFAS, are often characterized as “emerging contaminants.” However, if you ask the residents living in the communities polluted by decades of unregulated discharges of these chemicals they’ll tell you that it’s a contamination crisis that has arrived long ago.

 

PFAS chemicals are a group of chemicals that, because of their nonstick and heat-resistant properties, have been used since the 1940s in a wide variety of industrial and consumer applications. Exposure is associated with myriad health impacts, including cancer, kidney disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, preeclampsia, low birth weight and reduced effectiveness of vaccines.

 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently identified 610 sites in 43 states contaminated by PFAS, including 117 military sites. EWG also identified nearly 500 industrial sites that are potentially discharging PFAS into the air and water. Because the military has required the use of PFAS in firefighting foams for 50 years, there is likely some level of PFAS contamination near virtually every military base, fire training center and commercial airport in America.

 

However, because there are no requirements to test or monitor for PFAS, no one knows the true scope of PFAS contamination.

 

Once in the environment, PFAS chemicals never break down. This means that even decades after PFAS are released, people will still be exposed and face health risks from these “forever chemicals” if contaminated sites are not cleaned up.

 

That’s why it’s so important that PFAS be designated as “hazardous substances” under the federal Superfund law, which would jumpstart the process of identifying and cleaning up PFAS-polluted communities. PFAS chemicals also build up in our bodies and can stay there for decades. The longer communities continue to be exposed to PFAS, the greater the risks they face.

 

Nationwide, EWG found 610 sites that could be polluted with PFAS chemicals. Michigan has the most contaminated sites in the country with 192 locations. The high number reflects Michigan’s aggressive testing and sampling program, led by the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART).

Explore the map of contaminated sites here.

Article adapted from ewg.org.

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