Human Health Workgroup

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Mission:

"To assist Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and other state agencies with the evaluation of the public health implications associated with environmental releases of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). Discuss and build understanding of interdepartmental coordination on public health topics. Be notified of MDHHS public health determinations and regulatory departments' determinations that impact public health. The workgroup will endeavor to provide impacted communities with public health information in a way that is science-based, equitable, and is protective of everyone in Michigan including the most vulnerable and sensitive individuals of Michigan's population." 

This workgroup is led by MDHHS and consists of representatives from EGLE, MDARD and DNR.. Most of its members are environmental health toxicologists and risk-assessors.

Recent Accomplishments:

  • Working through MDHHS as the lead agency, the Human Health Workgroup (HHWG) developed public health drinking water screening levels for five PFAS.
    • MDHHS, and by extension HHWG, serves to protect the health of the residents in our state. Our role extends beyond regulations to ensure the best available science is employed through in-depth risk assessments at all sites of contamination across the state, identifying who may be exposed, how they may be exposed, and what protections should be employed - be it mitigation or education - to ensure even the most vulnerable residents of our state are protected from harm from contaminants - regardless of source. Providing public health perspectives and recommending protective actions at sites of contamination is a role MDHHS has been undertaking for decades with myriad chemicals at many sites. Although PFAS are classified as an emerging contaminant, the method by which we determine screening levels, assess risk, and recommend protective actions are tried, true, and recognized by state and federal agencies.
    • These screening levels provide a common well-studied baseline for use by toxicologists as they conduct risk assessments and provide guidance to local health departments and/or implement public health actions directly at sites under investigation.
    • Health-based screening values were developed for the five PFAS listed below because enough scientific knowledge is currently available to make conclusions about them. As more information becomes available MDHHS and the HHWG will continue to update existing screening levels and develop new screening levels for additional PFAS.
      1. PFOS
      2. PFOA
      3. PFHxS
      4. PFNA
      5. PFBS
  • The HHWG saw an unmet need for the development of a document comparing PFAS standards from around the United States and the world that includes information on how such standards are created. The HHWG developed the "Matrix of Agency Screening Levels Worksheet" (link to document here, section 9) to meet this need. Both the general public and various state and local agencies expressed frustration over the complex, evolving and at times inconsistent approaches taken by different agencies to develop PFAS standards around the United States and the world - this comparison document (linked above) clearly lays out the approaches taken by different agencies for the development of PFAS screening levels and compares those to the approach taken by MDHHS. This matrix is still available for public use and, can be updated and revised, as needed.
  • Often, MPART agencies develop protocols or procedures that touch on issues related to human health. With environmental toxicologists and risk assessors among its members, the HHWG is able to provide valuable review and insight to such efforts. Recently, the HHWG has reviewed and provided comment on documents originating from the MPART Air Quality workgroup and the home-raised products sub-workgroup. HHWG also routinely supports activities undertaken by MDHHS, such as health studies that are trying to answer important questions about how PFAS can affect health. Additional recent or ongoing examples include:
  • Development of responses to public comments received on the health-based values (HBVs) that were used in the development of EGLE's maximum contaminant levels (MCLs)

Next Steps:

This workgroup will continue to:

  • Determine how PFAS released in the environment affects public health
  • Discuss and share ways to protect everyone's health, especially those most negatively affected by PFAS
  • Develop science-based information on the PFAS that impact communities
  • Review key MPART products, such as protocols and screening levels, which affect human health
  • Develop screening levels for additional PFAS based on the best, most up-to-date science
  • Update existing screening levels based on the best available science

Reports:

Public Health Drinking Water Screening Levels for PFAS.

This is the document described above in Accomplishment #1. This document explains how MDHHS/Human Health Workgroup developed the public health drinking water screening levels for several PFAS. It includes the selection of critical studies that were identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and several other states who are at the forefront with Michigan proactively responding to PFAS.

Matrix of Agency Screening Levels Worksheet (Section 9; page 153).

This is the document described above in Accomplishment #2, it is a table of PFAS standards from other agencies, the methods they used to develop those standards and how those compare to the approach taken by the HHWG and MDHHS in the development of their screening levels.

MDHHS Research and Surveillance studies that are supported by the Human Health Workgroup: 

MDHHS has started multiple projects to learn more about PFAS exposure in Michigan residents and to learn more about the links between PFAS exposure and health. Among these efforts are two health studies that will enroll eligible adults and children from the Belmont/Rockford area (in North Kent County), the city of Parchment, and Cooper Township. The first study is run by MDHHS and is called the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS). It is a multi-year epidemiological study enrolling eligible Michiganders that seeks to better understand how exposure to PFAS affects human health. MiPEHS opened in 2020 and will span several years; data will be collected from participants three times, each about two years part.

In the second study, information collected in Michigan will be combined with information from six other locations around the country.  This Multi-site Health Study (MSS) will be run by MDHHS in Michigan and coordinated by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which chose seven sites around the country to study. ATSDR's Multi-site Health Study (MSS) seeks to understand the relationship between PFAS exposure and health outcomes among differing populations (press release here, ATSDR website here). Michigan MSS opened in 2021 for an approximately six-month period of data collection.  

In response to questions about the impact of PFAS on immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine, MDHHS also launched the PFAS Exposure and Antibody Response to COVID-19 Vaccine study in April 2021.

In addition to those health studies, the following activities are also underway:

  • Michigan Chemical Exposure Monitoring (MiChEM) is a public health surveillance project that will test a sample of Michigan adults for PFAS and other chemicals. It seeks to understand what the average exposure of Michigan adults to environmental chemicals is, including PFAS, and which Michigan adults are most exposed to those chemicals.
  • PFAS in Firefighters of Michigan Surveillance (PFOMS) is a targeted public health surveillance project that will measure PFAS in the blood of Michigan firefighters. It was launched in April 2021 and seeks to understand what is the average exposure to PFAS in Michigan firefighters.

Call 844-464-7327 or visit Michigan.gov/DEHBio to learn more about any of these projects.


Timeline of Accomplishments:

  • 2018/2019: Home-raised foods sub-workgroup formed
  • February 22, 2019: MDHHS PFAS Screening Level document published
  • February 22, 2019: Matrix of Agency PFAS Screening Levels Worksheet published
  • September 23, 2019: MDHHS is named as one of seven awardees of the ATSDR multisite PFAS Health Study
  • February 2020: Completes review of draft screening level document for an MPART agency
  • March 2020: Completes review of draft protocol document for an MPART agency
  • December 2020: MiPEHS launched
  • 2021: MSS, MiCHEM, and PFOMS planning, recruitment and/or launch.  PFAS Exposure and Antibody Response to COVID-19 Vaccine study launch.

Workgroup Lead Name and Email:

Jordan Bailey, MDHHS
BaileyJ17@Michigan.gov