Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

The Great Lakes region is potentially facing one of the most serious threats from a family of toxic chemicals in recent memory-per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).

PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals," are a family of over 4,000 chemicals that have been used historically (and currently) to make waterproof, stain proof, and flame-resistant products like cookware, waterproofing clothing, stain-resistant furniture, as well as fire-fighting foam. 

Scientific understanding of the threat posed by these forever chemicals to the Great Lakes region has advanced rapidly in the past decade, including the discovery of concerning levels of PFAS concentrations in the environment, people, water, and wildlife. We now know that PFAS are persistent, bio-accumulative and in many cases toxic - causing human health impacts such as cancer and depleted breeding success in some species. 

PFASs are threatening communities, wildlife and wild places in the region, including the Great Lakes themselves, which are the source of drinking water for approximately 40 million people and providing habitat to a wide variety of freshwater fish, mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. 

What is the Great Lakes Regional Center doing? 

The National Wildlife Federation is working to better understand how PFASs are impacting water resources and wildlife here in the Great Lakes region and the policies to reach solutions. We are working to ensure that decisionmakers at all levels of governments in the Great Lakes region take a leadership role in confronting the PFAS crisis to protect public health , fish and wildlife, and the economy. We are doing so by first and foremost, helping to amplify the voices of people and communities in the Great Lakes region who are being impacted by PFAS contamination. We do this work through the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network, which centers the voices of PFAS impacted community leaders; and through our work with individual communities like the community of Oscoda, Michigan where PFAS contamination from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base is hurting people, contaminating high value wildlife habitat, and impacting world class fisheries like the AU Sable River. For more on our work in Oscoda, check out our latest report - PFAS Contamination at the Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base: The True Story.    

To learn more check out The Science and Policy of PFASs in the Great Lake Report 

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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