Lansing — Michigan is launching a new project dedicated to investigating firefighter exposure to PFAS chemicals as part of an effort to establish safety protocols, the state said.
The “PFAS in Firefighters of Michigan Surveillance” program has started recruiting career and volunteer firefighters who work for airport fire stations as well as randomly selected fire department across the state, according to a release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
“The findings will help inform activities to minimize firefighters’ exposure to PFAS,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, said in a statement. “Emerging science continues to reveal the effects that PFAS can have on human health, and the firefighters who participate in the PFOMS project will contribute to our understanding of PFAS exposure among firefighters.”
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS, is a chemical found in Class B firefighting foams used to fight fires involving gasoline, oil, and jet fuel.
Exposure to this chemical can result in thyroid hormone disruption and have effects on the immune system, according to the EPA. Known as “forever” chemicals, PFAS can even lead to cancer.
Seven departments are participating in the first year of the participating in the first year of the PFOMS project, including:
- ACW Unionville Fire Department (Tuscola County)
- Alcona Township Fire Department (Alcona County)
- Cambridge Township Fire Department (Lenawee County)
- Capital City Airport Department of Public Safety (Ingham County)
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport Fire Department (Wayne County)
- Dorr Township Fire Department (Allegan County)
- Rochester Hills Fire Department (Oakland County)
The project is expected to last three years, and organizers hope to recruit between 600 and 900 firefighters. The research began with the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport Fire Department on April 28.
PFAS exposure has become an urgent issue around the country. Last month, President Joe Biden allocated $75 million to address contamination by PFAS in his budget proposal.
PFAS exposure is often greatest at Air Force bases. In Oscoda, Michigan, the Wurtsmith Air Force Base has come under fire from Michigan congressional leaders after failing to clean up PFAS contamination.
The incoming leadership at the Air Force needs to “understand the urgency of the issue. They have to be more aggressive,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.
At the same time, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has launched a counterclaim against PFAS manufacturer 3M Corp. to recover clean up costs, damages to the environment and natural resource damages caused by PFAS contamination.
3M recently filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Environment and its drinking water standards adopted last year, calling them “the result of a rushed and invalid regulatory process, scientifically flawed, and reliant on speculative and unquantified purported benefits to justify the costly” rules.
New water standards were put into effect last August under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which established clear standards for public water supplies, sampling requirements and public notification requirements.