State health department launches multi-year firefighter PFAS monitoring project

LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, thanks to a $1 million grant from the CDC — is trying to figure out just how much PFAS exposure firefighters are subjected to on the job.

It’s why they launched PFAS in Firefighters of Michigan Surveillance Project April 28.

Priyashi Manani is an environmental epidemiologist with the state health department.

“We would be reaching out to several fire departments over the course of these next several years and collecting data in terms of a survey and a small sample of blood to analyze for PFAS,” Manani said.

Firefighters are exposed to carcinogens from burning materials along with PFAS chemicals from flame-suppressing foams.

PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that are believed to cause cancer and other health hazards.

They were used in manufacturing, firefighting foam and thousands of common household products.

These chemicals linger in the environment and in the human body, meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time.

“As part of this surveillance project, we are aiming to understand the characteristics of the exposure and how people with certain exposures differ from the general population and just monitor that exposure over time,” she said.

Manani says at the end of the three year project — they hope the data paints a better picture of how firefighters PFAS exposure stacks up against other populations.

“I hope that it would inform some policy decisions and also guide health education in Michigan firefighters.”

Right now, project coordinators are recruiting career and volunteer firefighters — who work for airport fire stations in Michigan.

Seven departments statewide are also taking part this first year — Including the ACW Unionville Fire Department in Tuscola County.

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