PFAS in Lake Leelanau

PFAS & Our Lake Leelanau Watershed

What are PFAS?

PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of over 3,000 manufactured chemicals that have been introduced into the production of materials since the 1950s. PFAS helped materials and products to be waterproof, stain-resistant, and non-stick. 

Some common products that contain or once contained PFAS include:

  • Household cleaning products
  • Fabric and leather coatings
  • Firefighting foams
  • Stain-resistant carpeting
  • Food paper wrappings
  • Water-proof clothing

Some of these PFAS-containing products have now been phased out of use, but there are many others that are still widely used. 

Why are PFAS dangerous?

PFAS can impact human health when a person comes into contact with them. The most common way to come into contact with PFAS is through ingestion, i.e., through drinking water or consuming food contaminated with PFAS. These “forever chemicals” are persistent in the environment and the human body, meaning they don’t break down and can build up over time. Swimming in water contaminated with PFAS is not likely to cause any impacts.

Scientists continue to study the potential health impacts of PFAS, but preliminary research suggests that there are significant associations between PFAS and total cholesterol, glucose metabolism, body mass index (BMI), thyroid function, infertility, breastfeeding, uric acid, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

PFAS in Michigan

The State of Michigan put together the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) in 2017. This is a team of seven state agencies that work to protect public health by identifying sources of PFAS, addressing PFAS contamination at the sources, and working with local health departments to protect people in areas where groundwater is impacted by PFAS. 

We invite you to click on the link above to explore their webpage and learn about what MPART offers for water testing, site investigations, and public engagement.

PFAS in Lake Leelanau

Earlier this year, LLLA contacted MPART to get on the list for water and fish sampling in Lake Leelanau. In coordination with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB), a wide variety of fish are being captured this year to be sent for PFAS testing. Lake Leelanau has been placed on MPART’s list for lake water sampling in 2024. The results of these tests will be shared next year once they are received.

What individuals can do

Complete avoidance of PFAS chemicals is extremely difficult, but there are some measures that you can take to limit your exposure. First, read the information below to learn the basics. 

Then, check out Clean Water Action’s list of 10 Things You Can Do About Toxic PFAS Chemicals, like avoiding those microwave popcorn packets, and avoiding Goretex on outdoor gear.

Remember to consult the newly published 2023 Michigan Eat Safe Fish Guide to protect you and your family from other toxins when consuming fish. 

References:

The impact of PFOS on health in the general population: A review 

Michigan Environmental Council – PFAS in Michigan

If you enjoyed this publication on PFAS in Lake Leelanau, view more of our articles on lakeleelanau.org.

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