PFAS exposure study launches in Kent County

Toxic Tap Water

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The first batch of recruitment letters for a study on the effects of exposure to PFAS went out to residents in Belmont and elsewhere in the Rockford area Monday.

A public meeting at Northview High School Tuesday evening aimed to give people who live in the study zone a better understanding of the North Kent County PFAS Exposure Assessment.

The assessment is the start of learning about the health effects of drinking water tainted with PFAS, a likely carcinogen that has also been linked to other illnesses. It will look at the level of PFAS in people’s blood and compare it with the amount of PFAS in the water to see if there is a correlation.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Kent County Health Department are teaming up to run the study. Officials hope to get 400 participants from homes with well water that tested above the PFAS safety advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion and 400 from homes with wells that tested below that threshold.

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“We found out our well was just above 70 parts per trillion,” said Ryan Rittner, who was at the meeting.

He and his family have been drinking PFAS-contaminated water for roughly five years, which means they may be asked to take part in the assessment.

“I think it’s good to collect the data so in the future when these things inevitably happen again, they can make informed decisions about what to do,” Rittner said. “Improve it for everybody.”

Right now, the study is only for people who use well water in the area with PFAS plumes linked to Wolverine Worldwide waste dumped decades ago. Kent County was chosen for the assessment because no other area in Michigan has as many wells exceeding the advisory level nor are any test results as high.

The study is invitation-only and each invitee can choose if they want to take part. Those who do will fill out  questionnaire to take into account any other potential exposure, and then have their blood drawn and tested. Those results will be compared to national averages for blood PFAS levels. The data will then be compiled, with the goal of learning more about the health effects of consuming PFAS.

If you are invited to take part, you will receive a letter in the mail. Invitations are going out through spring. It will be about a year before the full results are published.

>>PDF: Copy of the PFAS assessment letter

Additionally, the MDEQ and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to hold an open house and informational meeting to update their investigation into PFAS from Wolverine Worldwide’s former tannery and House Street disposal site. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 at Rockford High School. Officials will take questions from the public.

More information on the state’s response to Michigan’s PFAS crisis can be found on its website.

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