GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A reminder for Michiganders and visitors alike, anyone heading out onto the water this summer should be on the lookout for foam.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is advising people to avoid foam because it could be a sign of PFAS contamination. Foam can form naturally on bodies of water, but PFAS-related foam is typically a bright white and usually builds up on beaches.
“Natural foam is usually off-white and/or brown, often has an earthy or fishy scent and tends to pile up in bays, in eddies or at river barriers such as dams,” the agency said in a release.
PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a large group of chemical compounds first developed in the 1940s and incorporated into all sorts of products for waterproofing and heat resistance. Decades later, research showed that PFAS compounds take a long time to break down organically and can build up in the human body, causing serious health problems, including cancer.
PFAS isn’t easily absorbed through simple skin contact. However, the longer the exposure to the foam, the higher the possibility that it is ingested accidentally.
“We advise you to avoid contact with foam if you can, but if you accidentally come into contact with foam, you should rinse off as soon as possible. Rinsing off in general after water activities is always a good idea,” MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian stated.
It’s also important to keep an eye on your pets. Animals can easily ingest PFAS-tainted foam when grooming themselves.
If you find suspected PFAS foam, you are encouraged to contact the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. There is a form to fill out on the agency’s website as well as the 24-hour Pollution Emergency Alert hotline: 1-800-292-4706.