Expert: Report calls for lower acceptable level of PFAS

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A PFAS report the Environmental Protection Agency allegedly said would cause a “public relations nightmare” if released is now public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the 852-page report on the effects of PFAS on humans on its website Wednesday. Politico reported earlier this year that the EPA was blocking the release of the study because of the PR “nightmare.”

>>PDF: Toxicological Profile of Perfluoroalkyls

Grand Valley State University water expert Dr. Richard Rediske says the report compiled using new toxicology data is “significant” because it says the acceptable level of PFAS should be seven to 10 times lower than the level previously recommended by the EPA, which was 70 parts per trillion.

That calls into question whether wells that tested positive for lower levels of PFAS are safe for drinking.

PFAS has been detected in wells in Plainfield and Algoma townships near sites where waste from Wolverine Worldwide was dumped decades ago. The PFAS was in the Scotchgard Wolverine used to waterproof the shoes it made in nearby Rockford.

>>App users: Map shows Belmont-area PFAS test findings

Along the Rogue River in Belmont, several residents whose water tested under 70 ppt told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday they want whole-house filtration systems now that the CDC is suggesting a lower cutoff.

“We don’t have the filtration system yet and we haven’t heard a word about it,” Corinne Inchauste, who lives on Woodwater Drive NE, said. “We have this water and it tastes great but we can’t use it. It’s frustrating.”

“If they lower the number way down, where it’s dangerous, and there’s a filter system that’ll take care of it, you’d certainly have to have it,” Ronald Fredericks, who has lived on Woodwater for more than 30 years, said.

Neighbors are worried about their health.

“My youngest one, right away, that was his first thought: ‘Man, what have I been drinking? What have I taken in all these years?'” Susan Torrey said.

Her husband is tired of using bottled water and wants a whole-house filter.

“I’ve been using bottled water for a long time, at work, I take it to work, at home, and then when we have people over, we use bottled water, too. So it’s definitely been a real problem,” Jim Torrey said.

Seven wells near a Pierson Township landfill also tested positive for PFAS, but the levels were below the EPA limit, with the highest reading at 50 ppt. 

In a statement Wednesday, Wolverine Worldwide said it “continues to work diligently with all local, state and federal regulators to collect the right data and develop long-term solutions for our community.” 

The company said it was reviewing the ATSDR draft report and preliminary recommendations.

>>Inside Complete coverage of the toxic tap water investigation

Tests are also underway to determine if drinking water is contaminated near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and Battle Creek Air National Guard base. The PFAS source at both those locations was a type of foam used to put out fires.

“This federal study is deeply concerning because it demonstrates that PFAS chemicals are more dangerous to human health than the EPA has previously acknowledged. The Trump Administration must address PFAS contamination with more urgency. We must ensure that families and veterans exposed to these dangerous chemicals receive the health care and clean-up resources they need,” Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint stated Wednesday.

The CDC’s report also discusses how PFAS exposure may be linked to certain health conditions, including:

  • Liver damage
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Elevated total cholesterol
  • Elevated LDL cholesterol
  • Increased risk of thyroid disease
  • Decreased antibody response to vaccines
  • Increased risk of asthma
  • Fertility problems
  • Slight decreases in birth weight

Rediske, the water expert, said the study shows new health risks people will now need to try to protect themselves against.

“Anytime you get a reduction (in the limit), the level goes down, it is significant,” Rediske said.

He pointed out that one of the biggest concerns with PFAS is that it builds up in the body, doesn’t break down quickly and can stay in someone’s system for years after exposure.

“I’m concerned about the concentrations because being that low, there’s very few pollutants that we’re looking at that are significant at those concentrations,” Rediske said.

The EPA is not required to take the CDC’s recommendations, so it’s unknown what action, if any, will be taken.

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