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A toxicologist warns of a lame-duck legislative effort to change toxic cleanup criteria in Michigan

Michigan's lame-duck legislature is voting on a bill that would determine which scientific information the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality could use when setting cleanup standards for toxic contamination sites.

Scientists and public health advocates are voicing concern over a bill currently making its way through Michigan’s lame-duck Legislature. They say thatSB 1244,  sponsored by state Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland), could prevent the state from using the most up-to-date science when determining what levels of toxic contamination should trigger a cleanup. 

Richard DeGrandchamp is a toxicologist at the University of Colorado. He also co-authored a report released by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) six years ago that warned about widespread PFAS chemical contamination in water sources across the state.

There are no official federal standards for PFAS contamination. But in 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency establishedan advisorythat recommends PFAS concentration in water not exceed 70 parts per trillion. Michigan adopted that level as its cleanup standard earlier this year.

DeGrandchamp says Stamas' bill would prevent the MDEQ from using the best available science to make important decisions. He says that is of particular concern because of the potential public health risks associated with PFAS exposure.

“There has been a deluge of studies published over the past six months that show that these compounds are extremely toxic, and perhaps more important, they stay in the body for a long time. A child breastfeeding today would not eliminate all of those PFAS compounds until they were about 30 or 40 years old. That’s how long they stay in the body. So if you make a mistake with establishing cleanup levels today, that mistake is going to be long lasting," he explained.

Listen to Stateside’s conversation with DeGrandchamp to hear more about his thoughts on the bill, and how he would advise the legislators who are considering supporting it. 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas. 

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