Michigan is surrounded by water. There is an industrial heritage. And its documented contamination with PFAS is related to both.
However, the measurement of chemical risks leaves a major question unanswered: How much PFAS is in the blood of an ordinary Michigan resident?
A $ 4 million federal grant will allow the Michigan Department of
This is a two-part effort that will be completed in five years.
The first initiative, called the Michigan Chemical Exposure Monitoring Program (MiChEM), will show human blood levels in PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances among state residents. This will be done through biomonitoring, which the state describes as measuring chemicals from the environment in body tissues or fluids, such as blood or urine, to determine the amount of chemical that is actually entering the body.
The tests will also show for several other chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), some pesticides and heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead.
"We just don't understand what the population exposure in Michigan is," says Matt Geiger, director of the Department of Chemistry and Toxicology at the MDHHS State Laboratory for Public Health and one of the top researchers on US grant funding for disease control and prevention.
"Michigan adults may be exposed to chemicals from the environment differently than the rest of the US population. "
A second part of the grant will be used for more targeted tests: Checking firefighters for how much PFAS is in their blood. [1
"PFAS has been foaming and our facility for years and years," he said. "If you disable it, it may remove the protective properties of our equipment. So we want to see if PFAS harms us or not. "
The International Fire Union is also addressing the issue, Doherty added.
Michigan's location in the Great Lakes makes it susceptible to pollution risks. Reasons, as suggested by the MDHHS presented to the CDC in April, include:
- Michigan it borders four of the Great Lakes, controls 38,575 square miles of Great Lakes water and contains over 60% of the total Great Lakes shoreline in the United States.
- The country has over 36,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 11,000 inland
- Heavy industrialization leaves historic Statewide, including 65 Superfund sites.
- More than one million Michigan residents catch and eat local fish that can be contaminated.
- Michigan has 1.25 million private wells servicing 2.6 million 1965. They are not covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act.
All the pollutants to be investigated with the new grant have been found in the state and some targeted biomonitoring has been carried out. This includes PCB testing at a time near St. Louis, where a chemical mix in 1974 led to nationwide consumption of the chemical. In Northern Kent County, health officials are conducting PFAS tests for residents to determine exposure there after industrial waste from Wolverine World Wide contaminated drinking water over approximately 25 square miles.
And in Parchment, the city's drinking water system was closed down in 2018 after municipal wells with PFAS concentrations exceeding 10 times the federal lifelong advisory limit were discovered.
"MDHHS has historically only evaluated the exposure of analytics selection chemicals to the small populations affected," according to the proposal. This forces the state to turn to national assessments.
However, he adds, "National monitoring data for biomonitors is not sufficient to evaluate Michigan-specific exposures given its industrial history and potential for unique exposure sources."
In the end, the data collected in the new biomonitoring study will be used to evaluate and reduce exposure, said Lynn Sutfin, spokesman for MDHHS. The results can also guide future state policy and national initiatives.
Contamination with PFAS continues to be detected in Michigan, as state investigators aim to test probable routes for human and environmental consumption: drinking water. Industrial discharges. Landfill leakage. Foam known as AFFF. Fish from polluted lakes and rivers.
Millions have been spent on the efforts of the state and local authorities for the efforts, as employees also take new regulatory measures. Soon, the state is likely to approve a maximum level of contaminants for PFAS in drinking water, which may include seven types of chemicals, including PFOA, PFOS and GenX.
At the same time, national attention to chemicals continues to grow, fueled in part by the number of active and closed military installations that are sources of community contamination. The overall responsibility of the Ministry of Defense remains unfunded. By contrast, states and individuals have litigation against chemical companies such as 3M and Dupont, leading to high dollar settlement.
PFOA and PFOS are no longer used, but they remain in the environment and fall into drinking water supplies. Called 'eternal chemicals', they have been linked to cancer, developmental delay and other adverse health effects.
While many people in Michigan drink water that has been tested for PFAS and know that they face little and no risk, firefighters continue to handle chemicals. They are just one type of carcinogen to worry about.
"We are very cancerous," says Docherty. "There is a risk benefit to us."
According to the MDHHS proposal, firefighters form "a subgroup for which PFAS occupational exposure data exceeds national averages."
Study of chemical levels in "blood" firefighters will give them a better idea of what they have been exposed to, "says Geiger.
Past biomonitoring efforts in Michigan by the MDHHS State Laboratory of Public Health include an investigation into the 2003 exposure to dioxin in the Titabavasie River floodplain; several projects following the monitoring of chemicals by fish users Great Lakes in 1970
The CDC grant is awarded every five years This year's cycle attracted 17 applicants and five other states received grants: Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire , New Jersey, New York, New York and New Jersey will also collect PFAS data nationwide