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MSU Focuses on Understanding Effects of PFAs

Michigan State University is assembling a unique and diverse group of researchers to study the PFAS crisis in Michigan.

There is a PFAS crisis in Michigan.

Concentrations of PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — exist throughout Michigan, polluting groundwater to dangerous degrees. However, Michigan State University is helping lead the charge in PFAS research by quantifying exposure and risk for humans, livestock, crops, fish and wildlife as well as developing and testing remediation strategies and technologies. The MSU Center for PFAS Research notes the chemicals are in everything from footwear to paper food packaging.

“We’re assembling a unique and diverse group of researchers to study this problem,” said professor Cheryl Murphy, center director. “MSU is especially equipped to tackle such a formidable task because of our land-grant focus on research and outreach and our leading programs in agriculture, health and natural resources.”

In mid-June, the Michigan Senate approved House Bill 4389, which increases PFAS contamination accountability and pollution prevention. The battle to assess and mitigate PFAS pollution has been ongoing for three years. State Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, is sponsor of HB 4389 and has championed PFAS cleanup since 2017. Pollution was found in groundwater at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, where firefighting foam containing PFAS was used. The area sits at the point where the Au Sable River enters Lake Huron and is home to a number of inland lakes, many of which have dangerous levels of PFAS in them years after the base closed.

“Our state continues to pioneer the means for tracking, containing and managing PFAS contamination,” Allor said. “AFFF (firefighting foam) has largely been taken out of use by our fire departments, but while the technology catches up creating a safe alternative, this plan puts commonsense safeguards in place.”

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