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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?

New Congressional effort to speed up PFAS cleanup in Michigan and across the U.S.


Michigan members of Congress are once again pushing legislationto speed the cleanup of sites contaminated with PFAS.

PFAS are a family of industrial chemicals linked to serious human health problems. PFAS can be found in a variety of commercially-produced products, ranging from housewares to firefighting foam.

The Environmental Working Groupsays there are 2,337 PFAS contamination sites in 49 States. There are 162 sites in Michigan.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) says this is a national crisis.

“PFAS is an urgent public health and environmental threat. It has been that way for a long time,” says Dingell. “The number of contamination sites nationwide is growing at an alarming rate, including at our military bases.”

Tuesday, Dingell and Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) introduced the PFAS Action Act.

The bill would establish a national drinking water standard for select PFAS chemicals and would give the Environmental Protection Agency direction to act on cleaning up contaminated sites in Michigan and across the country. The bill is similar to legislation passed by the last Congress, but that died in the U.S. Senate.

Upton says he’s grown frustrated with the EPA’s response so far.

“What this legislation intends to do is to get EPA on our side. We need a partner,” says Upton.

Dingell and Upton partnered with award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo in announcing their new PFAS legislation. In recent years, Ruffalo has become a high profile activist campaigning for clean water.

But Ruffalo says raising awareness it not the point.

“Sounding the alarm on this important....but it’s not enough.  We need to finally act,” says Ruffalo. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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