Summer is now officially underway, at least, according to tradition where Memorial Day is its official start. So with that, people are taking to the water, shores, and beaches of Michigan.

But, beware, as there is a nasty, toxic sludge beginning to take over, and it cold harm you.

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It's not uncommon to see a "foamy" substance on the surface of the water in Michigan. more often than not, it's just a combination of certain elements in the water, churned up and combined by moving currents, and small whirlpools. But, there's a type of "toxic foam" that's being found more commonly among the shores in Michigan, and officials want to warn you about it.

Officials are warning people about "PFAS," or Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. They are manmade chemicals used in products like firefighting foams, stain resistant products, and the non-stick product that many pots and pans have on them.

They have been slowly seeping into the waterways via chemical spills, and waste waters from factories, and accumulating in higher amounts over time. PFAS will often appear in the water a concentrated "foamy" bubbles, and will look much different from other foamy parts of the water.

PFAS Water in Michigan
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How Can I Tell The Difference Between natural and PFAS Foam?

A lot of it can be determined by the color. Natural foams tend to be more white or brown colored, and often have a natural smell of some kind to them. Sometimes, it can be more like dirt, and other times it can smell fishy. But the level of foam won't be too drastic. Maybe only a few inches off the main water level.

PFAS foams, however, will likely have a much different hue to them. They'll look more colorful, and the bubbles will have a "rainbow sheen" look to them, indicating that they're likely full of chemicals and oils. The PFAS foams will also reach much taller heights and have a very non-natural smell to them.

Are There Health Risks?

Yes. Initially, PFAS would be an irritant to the skin, though it wouldn't be anything too bad, maybe nothing more than a slight rash or redness at the worst. However, ingesting the water in any way could lead to some serious issues like thyroid problems, immune system complications, and could lead to cancer.

PFAS Water in Michigan
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Children are specifically at risk around PFAS foam in water.

While reactions are rare in humans - aside from when it is ingested - the PFAS foams aren't horribly toxic to our outer layers. However, they are very detrimental to the ecosystem they're invading. Fish, and other animals drink from, and live by these waters. Animals that eat the fish that "breathe" these chemicals in the water can be contaminated and killed. Not to mention, just drinking the water, or eating the plant life that uses the water sources.

If you see foamy waters you suspect to be PFAS, you're encouraged to reach out to the Michigan DNR, or Great Lakes and Energy at 1-800-662-9278.

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