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In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS, or poly and perfluoroalkyl substances.PFAS is a family of chemicals that can be found in all sorts of products. But what are the lingering effects of PFAS on our health and the environment?

Michigan starts collecting firefighting foam containing PFAS

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

This week, the state began collecting PFAS-containing firefighting foam, known as Class B AFFF, that has been held in inventory by fire departments and commercial airports across Michigan.

According to Scott Dean, the spokesman for the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), the effort is part of the state's $1.4 million plan to collect and dispose of about 35,000 gallons of the foam.

Dean said the goal of the plan is to prevent future environmental contamination from the foam.

"This is really important because this PFAS-containing firefighting foam has been responsible for contaminating drinking water around hundreds of military bases and commercial airports across the country," said Dean.

So far crews have collected 1,260 gallons from the Lansing Fire Department, the Lansing Township Fire Department and Capital Regional International Airport.

"We'll have a crew over the next several weeks going across the state to collect more than 35,000 gallons of this PFAS-containing firefighting foam that was uncovered during our survey of fire departments across the state last year," Dean said.

After the foam is picked up, it will be shipped to a facility in Idaho. There it will be solidified and placed in a licensed hazardous waste landfill.

Known as per- and polyflouroalkyl substances,  PFAS are a group of industrial chemicals that are used in many products including firefighting foam, food packaging, and carpeting. Studies have linked PFAS to health problems.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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