PFAS

What is PFAS?

PFAS is a class of chemical compounds used since the 1940s that is known for its water-repellent and stain-resistant properties. Due to concern over adverse health effects, PFAS was largely removed from industrial and commercial use by the early 2000s, but improper disposal of PFAS and their prevalence in fire-fighting foams has led to issues at numerous sites across Michigan. Grand Valley and the Annis Water Resources Institute have already created an excellent resource on PFAS and its impact on Michigan's environment and communities that you can use to learn more about the chemicals.

PFAS

Who does it affect most?

Michigan has largely felt the effects of PFAS due to the disposal of tannery waste and due to its use in fire fighting foams used at Air Force bases across the state. PFAS from these sources often infiltrate the ground water and make well water unsafe for consumption. People are advised not to drink or cook with water that may be contaminated as well as not to consume any animals from the surrounding contaminated areas. Residents of Kent and Iosco counties have felt the most widespread impact, though sites continue to be tested throughout Michigan.


Read, Watch, and Learn

Books

Troubled Water: What's Wrong with What We Drink (2019) by Seth M. Siegel

A book full of shocking stories about contaminated water found throughout the country and about the everyday heroes who have successfully forced changes in the quality and safety of our drinking water. It concludes with what America must do to reverse decades of neglect and play-it-safe inaction by government at all levels in order to keep our most precious resource safe. nonfiction

 

Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer's Twenty-Year Battle Against DuPont (2019) by Robert Bilott

Representing a single farmer who was convinced the creek on his property had been poisoned by runoff from a nearby DuPont landfill, Rob Bilott ultimately discovers the truth about PFAS—unregulated, toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of Teflon and a host of other household goods. DuPont’s own scientists had issued internal warnings for years about the harmful effects of PFAS on human health, but the company continued to allow these chemicals to leach into public drinking water. Until Rob forced them to face the consequences. nonfiction

Movies

Dark Waters (2019) directed by Todd Haynes

The story dramatizes Robert Bilott's case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals. Based on the New York Times article "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare." legal thriller

 

The Devil We Know (2018) directed by Stephanie Soechtig

A group of citizens in West Virginia challenges a powerful corporation to be more environmentally responsible. investigative documentary

Videos

"We need to track the world’s water like we track the weather" TedTalk by Sonaar Luthra 

We need a global weather service for water, says entrepreneur and TED Fellow Sonaar Luthra. In a talk about environmental accountability, Luthra shows how we could forecast water shortages and risks with a global data collection effort -- just like we monitor the movement of storms -- and better listen to what the earth is telling us.

 

"If You Don't Know, Now You Know: Toxic PFAS Chemicals" The Daily Show

Trevor breaks down the growing concern over the uses and health risks of PFAS, a.k.a. “forever chemicals.”

 


What You Can Do

pfas what to do

While you continue to educate yourself on issues like PFAS that affect the communities around you, remember to have open dialogues with friends, family, and colleges about the ways that access to water clean is not always equal. Recommend different resources from above that helped broaden your own perspective and continue the conversation. 

 

With all social justice issues, it’s important not only to have open discussions but to take action if and when you are able. Below are a number of places to get involved through donations, participation in events, and simple actions.

10 Things You Can Do About Toxic PFAS Chemicals

PFAS Exchange's Interactive Map to Connect Communities

 

If you have any other information or resources related to PFAS or other issues, please let us know at mwi@gvsu.edu.