Mapping PFAS Contamination Hotspots Across the USA

Mapping PFAS Contamination Hotspots Across the USA

Once considered a marvel of modern industry, per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) now lurk unseen dangers in our homes, workplaces, and drinking water. These “forever chemicals,” known for their stain resistance, water repellency, and firefighting properties, are now recognized as a severe threat to our health and environment.

A recent study examined 39 internal documents from industry giants 3M and DuPont dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. It reports that these companies knew about the toxic impacts of some PFAS chemicals decades ago before health experts and governments turned their attention to them. But they deliberately hide this information from the public.

Today, PFAS chemicals build up within our bodies and the environment because they resist breaking down. This buildup is now linked to an alarming range of health problems, including cancers, weakened immunity, and even congenital disabilities.

From Michigan to New York and countless places in between, communities are discovering the dangers of PFAS pollution. Military bases, factory runoff, and even firefighting foam are among the primary sources of contamination. This widespread crisis is fueling demands for action.

This blog will pinpoint PFAS hotspots throughout the United States and empower concerned citizens with tools to protect themselves.

Michigan: The Epicenter of the PFAS Crisis

When people hear the word “PFAS,” Michigan often comes to mind. The state has become a tragic symbol of the dangers posed by these “forever chemicals.” From contaminated waterways to families facing health crises, the human cost of PFAS pollution in Michigan is devastating.

Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda is one primary source of the problem. For decades, PFAS-laced firefighting foam used at the base seeped into the ground and eventually into Lake Huron via the Au Sable River. This contamination, first discovered by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in March 2010, has spread far and wide, threatening nearby communities and ecosystems.

Another notorious case is the Wolverine Worldwide tannery scandal. The company’s reckless dumping of PFAS-laced waste and other pollutants poisoned groundwater and drinking wells throughout Kent County. Residents were unknowingly exposed to these toxins for years, leading to a surge in cancer cases, thyroid issues, and other health problems.

Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of Michigan’s PFAS story is its preventable nature. Warnings about the dangers of PFAS were ignored as companies like 3M fought back and government agencies stalled. 

People demanding answers and action have filed the AFFF lawsuit. These lawsuits primarily represent firefighters from the Air Force base and communities near Wolverine Worldwide Inc., seeking compensation and forcing polluters to fund costly cleanups.

While the damage is done and trust is shattered, Michigan’s struggles serve as a stark warning about the nationwide threat of PFASs. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Yet, the state’s example demonstrates citizen action’s power, driving the fight for accountability and a safer future.

New York Takes Action Against PFAS Pollution

New York’s battle with PFAS contamination isn’t just about safeguarding drinking water; it’s about holding polluters accountable and spearheading national efforts to combat these “forever chemicals.”

The 2016 Hoosick Falls crisis was a turning point. Residents discovered PFOA in their water supply, exceeding the advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Public outcry ignited swift action, with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) securing a $45 million agreement with Saint-Gobain and Honeywell. 

This agreement compels the companies to fund a new $10 million water supply system for Hoosick Falls, reimburse $30 million in taxpayer-funded cleanup costs, and pay $5 million in natural resource damages (NRD).

New York’s proactive approach includes the nation’s strictest PFAS limits in drinking water. This aggressive stance drives more frequent testing and faster contamination cleanup and pressures manufacturers to develop safer alternatives.

The state isn’t stopping there. Heavy investment in research fuels the search for innovative ways to filter PFAS from water and break down these persistent chemicals. This commitment to innovation is essential for tackling the current crisis and preventing future ones.

North Carolina Confronts Pollution and the Legacy of the Chemical Giant

The Cape Fear River, a vital water source for 500,000 people, has become a symbol of corporate greed and environmental injustice in North Carolina. DuPont and its spin-off, Chemours, knowingly poisoned the river with GenX and other PFAS chemicals from their Fayetteville Works site for decades. This reckless pollution contaminated the drinking water of countless communities downstream.

But North Carolinians are fighting back. Outraged residents demand that Chemours clean up the contamination it caused. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Chemours is sued for not taking more decisive action and violating the Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

This pressure has spurred the state to implement stricter PFAS regulations and invest in water filtration systems. However, the contamination’s widespread reach and the lingering fear of long-term health consequences mean the fight is far from over.

California Takes a Stand Against Forever Chemicals

California, known for its stunning coastline and vibrant cities, faces a hidden crisis of widespread PFAS contamination. These “forever chemicals” linger stubbornly, tainting drinking water and the environment. The pollution stems from military bases, industrial sites, and even seemingly innocuous residential areas.

PFAS contamination isn’t solely a military base problem in California. Industrial waste, wastewater treatment facilities, and landfills all contribute. Even everyday household items like carpets, cosmetics, and food packaging can release these chemicals into the water system.

But California isn’t waiting for a federal solution. With stricter PFAS limits than national guidelines, the state drives faster cleanup efforts and tighter product restrictions. 

This proactive approach solidifies California’s leadership role in combating this contamination crisis. New guidelines limit PFOA to 10 parts per trillion and PFOS to 40 parts per trillion and restrict these chemicals in everyday products like cosmetics, food packaging, and clothing.

Legal action is escalating, too. Communities and the state attorney general are holding polluters accountable. According to TorHoerman Law, 7,738 AFFF lawsuits are pending consolidation. Recently, Tyco Fire Products agreed to a $750 million settlement in AFFF litigation due to PFAS contamination of public water systems.


How Many PFAS Sites Are in the US?

As of February 2024, there are 5,021 confirmed PFAS contamination sites throughout the United States, spanning all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories.

Which Countries Have the Most PFAS Contamination?

Sweden and the United States face significant PFAS contamination issues. This is due to a combination of historical industrial use, PFAS manufacturing sites, and extensive use of products containing these chemicals.

Who Is the Biggest Pfas Producer?

Chemours, which spun off DuPont’s PFAS division, is a major producer of PFAS chemicals. 3M has been a significant producer historically, but Chemours has become a prominent industry player.

Can Skin Absorb Pfas?

Yes, the skin can absorb PFAS, although typically in small amounts. Everyday activities like using contaminated water for showering or washing dishes likely won’t contribute heavily to PFAS levels in your body. However, some research suggests that PFAS-containing cosmetics could lead to slightly higher absorption.

In conclusion, PFAS contamination is a national crisis unfolding before our eyes. Industries once hailed these chemicals as a technological marvel, but they have left a toxic legacy for us to address.

Firefighting foam is a major source of contamination. Military bases, airports, and other locations where it’s used carry a high risk of PFAS seeping into groundwater. This underscores the importance of holding polluters accountable and pushing for cleanups even when regulations fail to keep pace.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *