WARNING: Avoid foam on Michigan lakes and rivers

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) sent out a notice warning people to avoid contact with foam they may see on the state’s waterbodies such as lakes, rivers, and streams.

Why the recommendation?

According to health experts, the foam may have unknown chemicals or bacteria in them, including high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS-containing foam tends to be bright white in color, is often lightweight and may pile up like shaving cream on shorelines or blow onto beaches.

“Although current science shows that the risk of PFAS getting into your system from contact with skin is low, you can minimize exposure to PFAS by rinsing or showering after you are done with your recreational activities,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “In general, washing hands and rinsing off after recreating will help to protect people from chemicals and bacteria that may be in waterbodies.”

Naturally occurring foam without PFAS tends to pile up in bays, eddies or at river barriers such as dams. Naturally occurring foam is typically off-white and/or brown in color and often has an earthy or fishy scent.

What if you do come into contact?

If contact with foam is made, care should be taken to rinse or wash it off as soon as possible, particularly if PFAS contamination is suspected in the waterbody. The longer that foam remains on the skin, the greater the chance of accidentally swallowing the foam or the foam residue left behind.

Health advisories have been issued for specific waterbodies where PFAS-containing foam has been found in the past. These specific advisories can be found in the “PFAS Foam on Lakes and Streams” section of Michigan.gov/PFASResponse, under “Testing.”

More information on PFAS-containing foam can be found under the “PFAS Foam” section at Michigan.gov/PFASResponse. If you have questions about exposures to PFAS and/or foam, call the MDHHS Environmental Health hotline at 800-648-6942.

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