State officials: Avoid touching toxic foam on waterways

May 2, 2019

Fire fighting foam on a river
Credit wiki / Wikipedia

The state says people should avoid contact with toxic foam from chemicals that may be found floating on some lakes, rivers and streams. Michigan Health and Human Services officials say anyone who touches foam from perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances -- PFAS -- should wash it off. The concern is inadvertently transferring the chemicals into a person's mouth while eating.

State toxicology and response section manager Deb MacKenzie-Taylor said levels of PFAS in foam can vary, but the chemicals are often more highly concentrated in foam than in surface water. The industrial compounds have been used in some firefighting foam, waterproofing, carpeting and other products. They can get into drinking water when products containing the chemicals are spilled onto the ground or in lakes or rivers.

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