The Hidden Dangers in Our Water: PFAS in the Great Lakes

Last Updated: June 17, 2024By

The Hidden Dangers in Our Water: PFAS in the Great Lakes


Hey there, folks! Have you ever heard about these sneaky chemicals called PFAS? They’re not something you’d usually think about, but they’re everywhere, especially around the Great Lakes. So, let’s dive in and see what’s going on with these “forever chemicals.”

What’s the Deal with PFAS?

PFAS are a group of about 15,000 chemicals used in loads of products to make them waterproof, stain-resistant, and heatproof. Sounds useful, right? But here’s the kicker: they’ve been linked to some pretty serious health issues like cancer, kidney problems, birth defects, and liver disease. Yikes!


These chemicals are called “forever chemicals” because they just don’t break down. Once they’re in the environment, they move around through the air, water, and soil. They’ve been found all over the world, even in places as remote as Antarctica and the Arctic!

PFAS in the Great Lakes

A new study has painted a full picture of how PFAS are showing up in the Great Lakes region, which holds nearly 95% of the U.S.’s freshwater. The research found that these chemicals are not just in the water but also in the air and rain.

Marta Venier, one of the researchers from Indiana University, was surprised by these findings. She said, “We didn’t think the air and rain were significant sources of PFAS in the Great Lakes’ environment, but it’s not something that has been studied that much.”


Air and Rain: Unexpected Carriers

The study showed that PFAS levels in the air were higher in urban areas like Chicago compared to rural spots in northern Michigan. This kind of pattern is similar to other pollutants like PCBs. But, here’s the weird part: PFAS levels in the rain were pretty much the same whether you were in a big city like Cleveland or out in the peaceful wilderness of Sleeping Bear Dunes. This consistency suggests that these chemicals are really widespread and not just a local problem.

Urban vs. Rural Waters

When it comes to water, Lake Ontario had the highest levels of PFAS, probably because it has more big cities like Toronto around it. Plus, it’s the last stop in the west-to-east flow of the lakes. On the other hand, Lake Superior, which is the biggest and deepest, had the lowest levels, likely because it has fewer urban areas.

What Does This Mean for Us?

The study didn’t specifically say what these PFAS levels mean for our health, but it’s clear that they’re a cause for concern. There are already advisories about eating fish from these waters, and many cities around the lakes have issues with contaminated drinking water.

Venier highlighted the need for a big-picture approach to control PFAS pollution. “We need to take a broad approach to control sources that release PFAS into the atmosphere and into bodies of water … since they eventually all end up in the lakes,” she said.

The Bottom Line

PFAS are a big deal because they stick around and move easily through the environment. As scientists get better at detecting them, we’ll probably find even more of these chemicals. So, it’s crucial to understand where they come from and how to keep them out of our air, water, and rain. The Great Lakes are a treasure, and it’s up to us to protect them from these invisible invaders.

Hope this gave you a good rundown on what’s happening with PFAS in the Great Lakes. Let’s keep our eyes peeled and push for a cleaner, safer environment!

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