Be PFAS Smart In Wisconsin

It’s been a tough year for PFAS in Wisconsin. PFAS, or “forever chemicals” are a class of dangerous chemicals developed by 3M before World War 2.

Originally designed as a protective coating to waterproof garments, the use cases for the chemical quickly expanded to include a whole host of commonly used products.

PFAS is practically everywhere – in fast-food wrappers, coating Teflon pans, in make-up and cosmetics, it even gives dental floss that smooth and slippery sheen we’ve grown to like so much.

Recently traces of PFAS have been detected in rainwater and residential drinking water raising concerns over the safety of our potable water supply.

Some municipal water wells in the city of Eau Claire were recently flagged with high levels of the chemical detected in recent test samples.

Residents of French Island, home to the Town of Campbell near Lacrosse, WI are currently dealing with PFAS contamination in many residential wells, forcing many residents to drink and cook with bottled water.

And families in the Peshtigo, WI area in Marinette County have been struggling with PFAS water pollution since 2017 when high levels were first discovered by the WDNR. It is believed the Tyco Fire Products’ fire training facility in Marinette County, WI is the main source of contamination.

Fire fighting foam is one of the main culprits for PFAS contamination. The PFAS is what makes the foam adhere to surfaces, starve the flames of oxygen and extinguish. PFAS laden foams are especially effective when encountering oil and chemical fires that are notoriously difficult and dangerous to combat.

Truax Field near Madison, WI is another area where fire-fighting foam has been used extensively for years. Now PFAS chemicals are being detected in nearby Starkweather Creek which flows into Lake Monona where recent fish consumption advisories were put in place to limit human exposure to PFAS chemicals.

Are PFAS Chemicals Dangerous To Humans?

There’s still much we don’t know about PFAS but the most recent research concludes that “forever chemicals” have no place being used anywhere near humans, our food supply, or in our potable drinking water.

PFAS chemicals are considered “emerging contaminants” by the EPA, but the closely related PFOS and PFOA chemical classes appear on their list of regulated drinking water contaminants.

The research done so far has led to PFAS classifications as a possible carcinogen in humans (classification pending) under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

While the jury is out regarding exactly how damaging PFAS chemicals are to human health, it is becoming increasingly clear that limiting exposure to these chemicals is wise.

How Can Wisconsin Residents Limit Their Exposure To PFAS Chemicals?

Unfortunately, exposure to PFAS in today’s world is imminent. However, there are ways to limit exposure and help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

1) Drinking Water

The first and most obvious is the water you drink. If you are worried about high levels of PFAS in your drinking water your best options are either consuming bottled water or installing a reverse osmosis water filter system in your living quarters.

The problem with bottled water – aside from the plastic waste being a huge environmental concern – is the fact that it may contain more pollutants than the water from your tap.

In fact, in most cases, the bottled water you purchase at the store is less stringently regulated than the water flowing from your faucet.

Factor in the cost of bottled water, and many people decide to go with a reverse osmosis filter system.

While it sounds high-tech and expensive, under-the-counter reverse osmosis systems can be purchased for under $200, and they are relatively easy to install.

Reverse osmosis filter systems are proven to remove over 90% of PFAS chemicals in addition to Nitrates and Arsenic often found in water tested from wells in some areas of Wisconsin.

2) Everyday Products

PFAS chemicals are found in a variety of products we use daily. One of the best ways to avoid PFAS exposure is by switching out those products for non-toxic alternatives.

Paper towels and plates: Paper towel brands like Scott Naturals, Seventh Generation, and Brawny brand paper towels are PFAS free or contain PFAS chemicals but at levels well below the standard set by independent studies.

The same is true for paper plates – brands like Simply Balanced and Boca both have PFAS free alternatives.

Teflon pans: Teflon is a trademarked name, but most people refer to all non-stick cookware as Teflon due to its widespread use in the home kitchen. Non-toxic cooking spray with an alternative non-stick surface is a PFAS free alternative to Teflon pans.

Alternatively, you can purchase new cookware made from cast iron or stainless steel which are both naturally non-stick surfaces and don’t contain PFAS chemicals. These tend to be more expensive, but they last forever – literally!

Personal care products: PFAS has been used in a vast array of personal care products that are used every day. PFAS chemicals have been detected in baby wipes, lotions, and cosmetics among many other common items.

Luckily there are PFAS free alternatives to almost all these products – from lip balm to hair dye — making it easy for consumers looking for PFAS-free options on their next shopping trip.

Be PFAS Smart

Being aware of PFAS chemicals is an important first step to limiting your overall exposure and helping to keep your family safe.

Read product labels and look for PFAS Free designations to ensure exposure is kept to a minimum. If you’re worried about water quality you can have your drinking water tested and/or install a reverse osmosis filter system as a safeguard.

Wisconsin residents are in for a long fight against these “forever chemicals”. Increasing awareness and vigilance in regards to our environment and the products we use and expose ourselves to are major steps in the right direction.

Mike Wesolek is a contributing author and marketing director at, a leading distributor of potable water protection products based in central, WI.
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