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State to offer PFAS blood tests to Oscoda residents, tourists as part of exposure assessment

Marco Verch

After learning of PFAS contamination in her hometown of Oscoda, Cathy Wusterbarth said the first thing she wanted to know was: how to get tested?

She said most people want to know the same thing, but getting a blood test for PFAS is expensive and can cost anywhere from $600 to $900.

Now, after years of community advocacy, health officials will begin surveying and offering blood tests to Oscoda residents and tourists.

“People will have at least a baseline of where they’re at, a starting point," Wusterbarth said. "Because if you don’t know, you don’t know! And then they can take the next steps to protect themselves.”

The tests are part of an assessment to learn how people are exposed to PFAS - and whether initiatives like “Eat Safe Fish” are effective.

Melissa Millerick-May is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She said the assessment is not focused on health outcomes, or how people are medically impacted by PFAS.

“We'll learn more about their risk factors and what that means in terms of concentration of PFAS in their blood," Millerick-May said. "Results from this will support public health actions and outreach.”

Millerick-May said participants will receive their blood test results, along with information they can share with health care providers.

The assessment will begin this September. To qualify, volunteers must be 12 years or older, and have visited or lived in Oscoda in the last decade.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.