Skip to main content

FAQ: PFAS health effects and recommendations

A blue stethoscope laying on a desk next to a laptop

FAQ: PFAS health effects and recommendations

The State of Michigan is working with the National Center for Environmental Health, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and additional partners to better understand how PFAS might affect people’s health.

  • The State of Michigan has tested foam on the Rogue River in Rockford, Van Etten Lake in Iosco County, and Lake Margrethe near Grayling. Due to the levels of PFAS found in the foam samples from these waterbodies and from high levels of PFAS in surface water from the Thornapple River and the Huron River, it is recommended that visitors to these waterbodies avoid swallowing foam on the water during recreational activities. Skin contact with the foam or water is not of concern because current science indicates that PFAS do not easily enter through the skin and would not pose a risk to human health.

    PFAS foam that has formed on a lake or river can be reported by filling out a foam sighting form.  Photos of the foam can be submitted through this form. Alternatively, reports can be made by calling the 24-hour Pollution Emergency Alert (PEAS) hotline at 800-292-4706.

    Because there are no standards for PFAS in foam, The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) does not sample for foam based on foam sightings.  EGLE staff will contact the person who filed the complaint to verify the complaint was received and to ask any follow-up questions.  EGLE adds complaints to a database.  The complaints are reviewed by staff to help inform fish and surface water sampling done on lakes and streams, which we do to identify sources of PFAS. Learn more information about PFAS Foam on Lakes and Streams.

  • People and animals worldwide have PFAS in their blood. Most people in the United States have one or more PFAS compounds in their blood, most frequently PFOA and PFOS.

    The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a program conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. Data from previous NHANES surveys show the levels of PFOA and PFOS are decreasing in the blood of the U.S. residents. This is most likely due to major manufacturers of PFOA and PFOS phasing out production of these two chemicals in the last decade, and replacing them with other PFAS chemicals.

    New PFAS have been developed and are in use and may be less persistent in the environment. However, more scientific research is needed to determine if these new PFAS could be a health concern.

  • Health effects associated with PFAS include:

    • Lowering a woman's chance of getting pregnant
    • Increasing the chance of high blood pressure in pregnant women
    • Increasing the chance of thyroid disease
    • Increasing cholesterol levels
    • Changing immune response
    • Increasing chance of cancer, especially kidney and testicular cancers

    Studies in animals help us understand what could happen in people. Animals given very high amounts of PFOS and PFOA showed:

    • Harm to the liver.
    • Harm to the animal's ability to fight off sickness.
    • Birth defects, slow growth, and pup deaths.

    If you have medical questions, talk with your doctor. You may find ATSDR's fact sheet, "Talking to Your Doctor about Exposure to PFAS" helpful.

  • PFAS chemicals do not easily absorb into the skin. It is safe to bathe, as well as do your laundry and household cleaning. It is also safe to swim in and use water recreationally. Getting water with PFAS on your skin will not harm you.
  • To learn more about natural versus PFAS foam and what to do if you come into contact with foam, see the PFAS Foam on Lakes and Streams page.
  • Blood tests are available that can measure the amount of PFAS in blood at the time it is collected. However, the test cannot tell you how much PFAS was in your blood in the past or if the PFAS has or will cause health problems.

    According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most people in the United States have some amount of PFAS in their blood, especially PFOA and PFOS. There is no medical treatment to remove PFAS from blood.

    If you're thinking about having your blood tested for PFAS, talk to your doctor.
  • 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 will be 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 answer the question, "has exposure to PFAS affected human health?". In the second study, information collected in Michigan will be combined with information from six other locations around the country.  This Multisite PFAS 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. Michigan's ATSDR Multisite PFAS Health Study (MSS) seeks to answer the question, "what is the relationship between PFAS exposure and health outcomes among differing populations?". To learn if you are eligible or to learn more about the study purpose(s) please call the MDHHS PFAS hotline at 844-464-7327 or visit Michigan.gov/DEHBio

    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 answer the questions, "What is the average exposure of Michigan adults to environmental chemicals?" and "Which Michigan adults are most exposed to PFAS?". And finally, 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 seeks to answer the question, "What is the average exposure to PFAS in Michigan firefighters?"

    Learn more by visiting Michigan.gov/DEHBio