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Our Water: The Dilemma and Convenience of PFAS

Each year as the weather warms up, individuals and families all across the state head outside to enjoy the fleeting warmth by flocking to one of our many lakes, rivers, or smaller bodies of water to boat, swim, fish, and enjoy our state’s spectacular water resources. During these long summer days, you might have noticed white foam along the shoreline or gathering in clumps out on the surface of the water. Though foam can be naturally occurring, this substance could also be the result of chemicals in the water, commonly referred to as PFAS, a catch-all abbreviation for the thousands of manmade chemicals known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. Because PFAS chemicals prevent other materials from bonding to them, their heat-, stain-, and water-resistant chemical properties have proven useful and convenient for products we use in our everyday lives. Even your favorite non-stick cooking pan or the pair of boots you grab on a rainy day contain PFAS!

Manufactured since the 1940s, these chemicals have been used in products like food packaging, water- and stain-resistant fabrics, cleaning supplies, and fire extinguishers, just to name a few. Because these chemicals are very stable and do not break down easily, they are commonly used in mass-produced items. This also means they can accumulate over time in any natural environment, including our bodies. In more recent years, additional research has been called for and conducted to learn more about PFAS and the long-term impacts these chemicals may have on people and our environment.