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Environmental Concerns Regarding the Worst PFAS Contamination in Three US States

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often dubbed as “forever chemicals,” are synthetic compounds known for their remarkable resilience due to robust carbon-fluorine bonds. 

Their unique molecular structure makes them highly resistant to degradation processes. This resilience leads to their persistence in soil, water, and even biological organisms, earning them the enduring moniker “forever chemicals.”

The versatility of PFAS properties, notably their exceptional water and oil-repellent characteristics, has driven their widespread integration into numerous consumer products. From non-stick cookware coatings to stain-resistant fabrics, PFAS have become ubiquitous in everyday items. However, amidst their convenience lies a significant environmental concern.

Leading Contributor of PFAS in the United States

major contributor to PFAS contamination stems from the use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) in firefighting activities. AFFF, which contains PFAS compounds like perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has been widely used in firefighting. It is employed in operations, training exercises, and fire suppression system tests. 

As a result, PFAS compounds are released into the environment during these activities, leading to widespread contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface water.

This contamination poses grave risks to both human health and environmental integrity due to the persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic nature of PFAS compounds. These chemicals can accumulate in the bodies of living organisms over time. According to TorHoerman Law, this accumulation can potentially cause adverse health effects, including cancer, immune system disorders, and reproductive issues.

In recent years, communities affected by PFAS contamination have sought legal recourse against the manufacturers of AFFF and other PFAS-containing products. These legal actions, often consolidated under the umbrella of the AFFF lawsuit, involve claims by individuals, municipalities, and states. They seek compensation for various damages incurred as a result of PFAS exposure. 

In essence, the widespread use of PFAS compounds, particularly in AFFF, has led to pervasive environmental contamination in various states across the United States. In this article, we will discuss three states grappling with the worst PFAS contamination. 

Michigan: Battling PFAS Hotspots

Michigan, renowned for its Great Lakes and industrial history, faces a grave challenge in combating PFAS contamination. The state’s legacy of manufacturing, including automotive and chemical industries, has left a detrimental mark on its environment. Notably, areas surrounding military installations and industrial sites have been identified as PFAS hotspots.

One infamous case is the discovery of PFAS contamination in drinking water sources near Wurtsmith Air Force Base, as noted by Michigan Public. The contamination attributed to firefighting foam used in training exercises has prompted widespread concern and remediation efforts. 

According to the Michigan Advance, Michigan’s EGLE estimates there are around 11,300 sites in the state where PFAS has been used. Consequently, it’s believed that around 1.5 million individuals in Michigan have been consuming water from sources affected by these chemicals.

Efforts to address this widespread PFAS contamination in Michigan include implementing stricter regulations, monitoring water quality, and conducting remediation projects. However, the scale of the problem necessitates continued vigilance and collaboration among government agencies, industries, and affected communities.

North Carolina: A Tale of Industrial Pollution

North Carolina’s rich agricultural heritage and burgeoning industrial sector coexist with a troubling legacy of PFAS contamination. The state’s industrial activities, including textile manufacturing, chemical production, and military installations, have contributed to widespread PFAS pollution.

One notable case is the contamination around the Cape Fear River. For years, industrial facilities and municipal wastewater treatment plants have been releasing pollutants into the Cape Fear River, leading to significant contamination. 

Among the numerous PFAS detected in the river, one compound stands out: GenX. Its pervasive presence and adverse effects have garnered significant attention, as reported by the National Audubon Society. 

Moreover, a recent report by The Guardian highlights a concerning revelation. At least 11 new types of PFAS “forever chemicals” are now found in the water surrounding a Chemours plant in North Carolina. 

Despite previous assertions by the company regarding progress in reducing PFAS emissions, this discovery suggests otherwise. Facilitated by a novel testing method, it indicates that the environmental contamination around the plant surpasses regulatory assessments.

The researchers stress the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address and mitigate PFAS pollution in affected areas.

New Jersey: Confronting a Toxic Legacy

New Jersey, renowned for its industrial strength and densely populated areas, grapples with a significant challenge in tackling PFAS contamination. Decades of industrial activities, including chemical manufacturing, aviation, and metal plating, have significantly impacted the state’s environment. This has led to adverse effects on its soil, water, and air quality. 

The detection of PFAS contamination in drinking water systems, especially in communities near military and industrial sites, has triggered public concern and regulatory responses. 

As per NJ Spotlight News, over 70 public water systems fail to meet New Jersey’s health standards for the three state-regulated PFAS chemicals. This number is anticipated to escalate to “hundreds” once the EPA implements its stricter health guidelines for PFAS in drinking water. These findings have raised concerns about health risks and environmental harm.


Why is PFAS a concern?

PFAS are worrisome because they endure in the environment, accumulate in organisms, and can lead to possible negative health impacts. PFAS are linked to various health issues, including cancer, liver damage, immune system disruption, and developmental problems in children.

How widespread is PFAS contamination?

PFAS contamination is a global issue, with contaminated sites identified in numerous countries. In the United States alone, PFAS has been detected in water supplies, soil, and food sources across various states.

What is AFFF litigation?

AFFF litigation involves legal actions against manufacturers and users of AFFF foam. It’s due to allegations of its role in contaminating water sources and causing harm to human health and the environment. Plaintiffs, often individuals, communities, or governmental entities, seek compensation for damages related to PFAS exposure from AFFF.

In conclusion, PFAS contamination poses a significant threat to public health and environmental integrity in various states across the US. Michigan, North Carolina, and New Jersey represent just a few examples of regions grappling with the consequences of industrial pollution and lax regulation. 


While efforts to mitigate PFAS contamination are underway, addressing this complex issue requires sustained commitment, as well as collaboration at the local, state, and federal levels. Only through collective action can we safeguard our communities and ecosystems from the pernicious effects of PFAS contamination.