What are PFAS?
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), are part of a group of chemicals used globally during the past century in manufacturing, firefighting and thousands of common household and other consumer products. These chemicals can be present in personal care products such as cosmetics and lotions, some insect repellants and sunscreens, and even in pizza boxes and fast food wrappers.
In recent years, experts have become increasingly concerned by the potential effects of high concentrations of PFAS on human health. Learn more about PFAS at www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse.
PFAS Contamination and Local Waterbodies (lakes, rivers, and streams)
It is still safe to swim, boat, and enjoy recreation on the Huron River!
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is advising residents to avoid foam in local waterbodies. PFAS foam could have much higher amounts of PFAS than the water.
Swimming and body contact in water containing PFAS is not a health concern because the amount of PFAS is usually low compared to the foam. While swallowing PFAS is the main way to get it into the body, an accidental swallow of river or lake water is not cause for concern.
Current science indicates that PFAS does not move easily through the skin, but it is best to rinse off foam (PFAS or naturally-occurring) as soon as possible after contact.
Foam can form on any waterbody, and sometimes foam can have harmful chemicals in it. This can include high levels of PFAS. PFAS-containing foam tends to be bright white in color, lightweight and may pile up along shores or blow onto beaches. Natural foam without PFAS is usually off-white and/or brown in color, often has an earthy or fishy scent, and tends to pile up in bays, eddies or at river barriers such as dams.
Drinking Water Testing
The State of Michigan is working proactively to identify locations where PFAS may be present as a contaminant. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) tested all of the municipal water systems in Michigan in 2018. EGLE is also testing other public places served by wells, including schools and daycare centers.
- Municipal water supply testing results and report describing the findings
- Testing results for schools and daycare centers on their own well(s)
- Testing results for children’s camps and other industrial facilities on their own well(s)
- City of Ann Arbor’s statement on test results (8/29/18)
If you’re concerned about your well water, our Environmental Health staff can provide personalized information and guidance. Give them a call at 734-222-3800.
To find information about your well, including your well log, which is a detailed construction record for your well, please read our Instructions for Finding Your Well Log (PDF).
If you want to test your water, information is available on our page How to Test Drinking Water for PFAS.
PFAS and Health
Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures to mixtures of PFAS. Although more research is needed, some studies in people have shown that certain PFAS may:
- affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- interfere with the body’s natural hormones
- increase cholesterol levels
- affect the immune system
- increase the risk of certain types of cancer
More information about PFAS and health is available from the State of Michigan and the CDC.
- Michigan’s PFAS response website: www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse
- CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: PFAS FAQs (PDF)
- Huron River Watershed Council: PFAS and the Huron River