Michigan’s Water: What is Safe and What Fish Can I Eat?

Surrounded by our Great Lakes, there are few things more Michiganders are proud of than their water. But, with the EPA’s recent warning about PFAS and drinking water advisory, how does that impact us locally?

Recently “forever chemicals” (Polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, aka PFAS, called “forever” because they can stay in the environment for years without breaking down) are linked to multiple health problems (including cancer) and have been found to be at high levels in several Michigan water sources. (Note: PFAS are found in water levels across the country.)

We spoke to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), who provided information on their Eat Safe Fish program, which focuses on protecting everyone, but especially people with existing health problems such as cancer or diabetes and for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women–people most at risk for health issues from PFAS. 

“Fish across the state are tested routinely for PFAS since 2012, and also tests for mercury, dioxins, and PCBS,” says Lynn Sutfin, an MDHHS Public Information Officer. 

The west side of Michigan had higher levels of PFAS–the Farmington Hills area was the only metro Detroit area to show higher levels as well. 

“Eat Safe Fish guidelines are recommendations that people can use to reduce their risk of harmful health effects from contaminants in fish. They represent the highest level of consumption that would not be expected to result in any harmful health effects,” says Sutfin. The guidelines represent a total intake of the chemical that should not be surpassed in order to avoid increasing risk of harmful health effects. “It is important to note that our guidelines do not indicate whether somebody will or won’t develop health effects from eating fish. They only represent the levels at which your risk of health effects could be increased. Whether an individual actually develops health effects is based on a variety of factors, including age, lifestyle, and genetics.”

For more information about Eat Safe Fish, check out detailed the MDHHS website. 

If you want to avoid excessive exposure to these PFAS, consider avoiding fish caught in Lake Superior, such as those listed here. Or, consider installing a filter that removes PFAS in your home. 


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