What is PFAS?

PFAS is a broad category of organic chemicals that have been used for an assortment of industrial and consumer products since the 1950s.

The active agent in these organic compounds acts as a surfactant or a surface protector, such as Teflon or Scotchgard. PFASs are an essential ingredient in making fluoroprotein foams and alcohol-resistant aqueous fire-fighting foams. The technical name for these compounds are Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), or more specifically per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).

These emerging contaminants are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to mammalian species. Experts have become increasingly concerned by the potential effects of high concentrations of PFAS on human health.


Under the EPA PFOA Stewardship Program, eight primary industrial users of PFASs committed to eliminating PFOA from emissions and product content by 2015. The production and import of PFOA has been phased out of the U.S. market, but PFOA based products may still reside in some inventories. PFOS is no longer used by U.S. manufacturers but still exists in the environment through fluorochemical-containing consumer products.

PFOS and PFOA have been used in the production of firefighting foams and water repellents since the 1950s. These chemicals are now known to have seeped into groundwater and private well systems. This is a particular concern for Michigan, where PFAS associated sites, such as Air Force bases, tanneries and electroplating facilities, have been staple industries in many of our communities.

Consumers may be exposed to PFAS from commercial products such as microwave popcorn, non-stick cookware, stain-repellent treatments and paints, and sealants. Unfortunately, there is limited information about which of these products currently contain PFAS and how much can accumulate in our bodies.


Groundwater ⟼ human

Wastewater ⟼ soil ⟼ crop ⟼ human

Wastewater ⟼ soil ⟼ human

Wastewater ⟼ soil ⟼ fodder ⟼ animal ⟼ human

Wastewater ⟼ soil ⟼ animal ⟼ human

Groundwater ⟼ soil ⟼ human


PFAS is in the news frequently. This list of known sites in Michigan is updated regularly by the Detroit Free Press.



The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has begun a statewide initiative to test drinking water from all schools that use well water and community water supplies for PFAS. MDEQ is taking this precautionary step of testing these drinking water sources to determine if public health actions are needed. Information on this page summarizes current sampling results from these locations.

It is not uncommon to find low levels of PFAS in drinking water supplies, as PFAS can be found in fire-fighting foams, stain repellants, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, food wrappers, and many other household products. They do not break down in the environment and move easily into water.

The EPA set a lifetime health advisory (LHA) level for two PFAS in drinking water, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The LHA level is 70 parts per trillion (ppt, equal to 70 ng/L) for PFOA and PFOS combined, or individually if only one is present. The EPA has not set health advisory levels for other PFAS chemicals. The State of Michigan is using 70 ppt for decision making purposes.