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Oscoda-area residents still being recruited for PFAS exposure assessment

Teresa Homsi

It's been more than a year since the state started screening Oscoda residents for toxic "forever chemicals," and the exposure assessment is still ongoing.

So far, the state has recruited more than 650 volunteers from Oscoda and Au Sable townships that make up nearly 500 households in the area. Participants provide a blood and urine sample and fill out a survey about their habits.

The study, conducted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), aims to understand how and where residents might have been exposed to PFAS.

Naxal Shah, an MDHHS environmental epidemiologist, said the study tests participants for nearly 200 different chemicals — 45 of which are PFAS compounds.

"The secondary objective is to estimate the contribution of non-drinking water exposure routes for PFAS and other chemicals, such as consumption of fish and game," Shah said, referencing how Oscoda has health advisories for PFAS in foam, deer, small game and fish.

Shah said the department will continue to recruit volunteers until enrollment naturally declines. Participants will receive their test results and resources to take to their healthcare provider.

"We are actively releasing our PFAS results," Shah said. "We've gotten those from the lab, so we are giving residents those specific results, and then we'll be sending an additional packet of results [with other chemicals]."

The Oscoda assessment complements another initiative by the state (MiChEM) that measures chemical concentrations across the general Michigan population. MiChEM is the first statewide effort to gather data on contaminant levels in Michiganders.

Shah said that project investigates whether Michigan residents have higher levels than the American public. The MiChEM data will also serve as baseline for future health studies in the state.

For more information about participation in the Oscoda exposure assessment, visit the MDDHS website.

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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