Health Department - PFAS

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May 16, 2019 12:44 PM

Remember: Avoid Foam on Huron River

As the summer recreation season is drawing closer, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is issuing a reminder that everyone should avoid foam on Michigan lakes and rivers known to have per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water, including the Huron River. Foam on these water bodies can have much higher amounts of PFAS than the water, and swallowing foam with PFAS could be a health risk.

Swimming or bathing in water containing PFAS is not a health concern because the amount of PFAS is typically low compared to the foam. Although swallowing PFAS is the main way to get it in your body, an accidental swallow of river or lake water is not a health concern.

The amount of PFAS in lake and river water and in foam matters in determining if a health concern exists. MDHHS will continue to evaluate surface water and foam data and will issue further recommendations if necessary.

PFAS-containing foam can have high amounts of PFAS. Although, current science indicates PFAS does not move easily through the skin, it’s best to rinse off foam after contact and bathe or shower after the day’s outdoor activities. None of this information changes recommendations for people’s water used at home.

An MDHHS evaluation of how young children might recreate on lakes and rivers shows a health risk could exist from repeated, prolonged whole-body contact with foam containing high amounts of PFAS. Repeated prolonged contact is considered to be three hours per day, five days per week, over three months of a year, representing a summer season. MDHHS’ recommendation to avoid foam with PFAS is protective of everyone, including young children.

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recommends that people not allow their animals – especially dogs – to come into contact with or swallow the foam. Dogs and other animals can potentially swallow foam collected in their fur when grooming themselves and should be thoroughly rinsed off with fresh water after contact with foamy water.

Not all foam contains PFAS. There is naturally occurring foam that piles up in bays, eddies or river barriers such as dams. This foam is off-white and/or brown in color and may have an earthy or fish smell.

PFAS foam:
• Can be bright white.
• Is usually lightweight.
• Can be sticky.
• Tends to pile up like shaving cream.
• Can blow onto the beach.

More information about PFAS and foam under the PFAS Foam section at Michigan.gov/pfasresponse.

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