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MI environmental group calls EPA's PFAS advisory a "wake-up call" for industries

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

The Michigan Environmental Council says the U.S. EPA's new health advisory for PFAS is a wake-up call for industries that use the chemicals.

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are chemicals that are used by numerous industries in the U.S. The advisory suggests that even tiny amounts of PFAS could be dangerous to human health.

While the advisory is not enforceable, the MEC's Charlotte Jameson said it's a signal of how the EPA may be approaching PFAS regulation.

"This stuff is really, really toxic," she said, "and we need to get serious about getting it out of our environment. That means not using it in the first place because once it's in the environment it's impossible to break down."

The EPA issued an advisory for two older, legacy forms of PFAS, called PFOA and PFOS, and also issued an advisory for two of the newer, so-called "short -chain" PFAS.

Industries have claimed short-chain PFAS are safer. Jameson said the advisory by the EPA shows the agency does not agree.

"I hope this serves as a wake-up call for them," she said. "It's a false narrative that [short-chain PFAS] is somehow safer. Short chain is not a good alternative and we really do need to look at getting rid of PFAS across the board."

Michigan currently has some of the strictest limits for PFAS in drinking water in the nation.

Jameson said the EPA's move may push the state to tighten the standard even more.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.