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Avoid foam this summer, officials warn of PFAS

bright white foam on shore
Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
PFAS foam in Van Ettan Lake in Oscoda, Michigan near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

Health officials are once again warning people to avoid foam on Michigan waterbodies, which may contain toxic “forever chemicals.”

Natural foam is usually brown or off-white with an earthy smell while foam containing PFAS chemicals is bright white and washes up on shorelines in billowy piles.

But the state advises Michigan residents and visitors to play it safe - and avoid making contact with any foam.

The state said the health risk from physical contact with PFAS foam is low, but it’s possible to accidentally swallow the foam. Prolonged exposure to the toxic chemicals is linked with certain cancers, liver damage, and other health impacts.

If you or your pet makes contact with foam, state officials recommend rinsing as soon as possible.

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.
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