Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have gained widespread attention due to their harmful effects on human health and the environment. Michigan has been hit hard by PFAS contamination, with many communities dealing with contaminated water, soil, and air. In this article, we will delve into the mysteries of PFAS contamination in Michigan’s soil, explore the health implications of exposure, and discuss effective soil management strategies to minimize exposure.
Unearthing the Mysteries of PFAS: Exploring Its Presence in Michigan Soil
PFAS are ubiquitous and persistent, making it challenging to predict their presence in the environment. Even though several industrial processes such as the production of PTFE and firefighting foam are known to release PFAS, the exact sources of PFAS in Michigan’s soil are unknown. A study by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) revealed that several sites in Michigan had PFAS levels above the state’s screening level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) in soil, with the highest concentrations found in areas close to industrial sites or military bases. This finding underscores the need to assess the risk of PFAS exposure in Michigan’s soil and prioritize remediation activities.
List of PFAS contaminated locations in Michigan soil:
- Wurtsmith Air Force Base: Located near Oscoda, this site was used for aircraft maintenance, firefighting training, and fuel storage, leading to significant PFAS contamination
- Rockford/Belmont Area: This region was contaminated by Wolverine World Wide, a company that used PFAS-laden tannery waste to manufacture shoes
- Grayling Area: This region was contaminated by the use of firefighting foam during training activities at the Camp Grayling military base
Contaminated Ground: Understanding the Implications of PFAS Exposure
PFAS exposure can lead to adverse health effects, ranging from developmental delays in infants to cancer. The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) recommends limiting exposure to PFAS as much as possible due to the potential health risks. When PFAS enters the body, it can accumulate and stay in the bloodstream and organs for a long time, leading to chronic exposure. Additionally, it can impact the immune system, hormonal balances, and cause other health issues, making it a significant concern for public health.
Short-term Exposure to PFAS can cause:
- Irritation of the eyes/mucous membranes
- abdominal pain
Long-term Exposure to PFAS can cause:
- reproductive and developmental health issues
- impaired immune system function
- thyroid gland and liver damage
Tackling the Problem: Minimizing PFAS Exposure through Effective Soil Management
Effective soil management strategies can help alleviate the risk of PFAS exposure. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recommends the testing of soil samples for PFAS contamination before planting anything in contaminated soil. Additionally, it recommends replacing contaminated soil with clean soil or using raised beds to grow crops in contaminated soil. Taking these measures can help minimize PFAS exposure and safeguard public health.
List of effective Soil Management Strategies to minimize PFAS Exposure:
- Use of raised beds: Growing vegetables and fruits in raised beds with clean soil can mitigate PFAS exposure risks
- Soil testing: Regular soil testing for PFAS is vital for early detection and remediation of contaminated soil
- Soil replacement: Removal and replacement of contaminated soil with clean soil can reduce exposure to PFAS
- Avoid using PFAS-laden materials: Avoid using PFAS-containing pesticides, fertilizers, and soil amendments
PFAS exposure is a significant environmental and public health concern in Michigan, with soil contamination being a lesser-known aspect. The presence of PFAS in soil can impact the food supply chain and expose humans and animals to potentially severe health risks. Therefore, effective soil management strategies are critical in minimizing PFAS exposure and ensuring public health protection. This issue requires a comprehensive approach involving government agencies, industry, and the community to address the problem of PFAS contamination in Michigan’s soil.