Study shows high levels of PFAS foam in Wisconsin

According to a recent study, researchers at UW-Madison found that the concentration of PFAS in foam naturally occurring on Wisconsin lakes and riverbeds is higher than the water below.

Researchers analyzed samples of foams from 43 lakes and rivers in the state to look for 36 types of PFAS, harmful man-made chemical substances that are commonly known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down readily in the environment. The PFAS chemicals, which are found in household products such as nonstick pots and firefighting foam, can cause cancer and fertility issues.

Surfactants are PFAS, and they attract them to the point where air meets water.

Researchers found samples of foam taken from Madison’s Lake Monona contained PFAS in an astronomically high amount of 328,000 parts-per-trillion, the highest concentration in the state. Lake Monona is known to be contaminated with PFAS because it’s downstream from Starkweather Creek which has been contaminated by firefighting foams at the Dane County Airport.

Researchers found that the concentration of PFAS in foam in all parts of the state was 50-7500 times greater than the concentration in deeper waters.

The federal drinking water standards set the maximum allowable concentration of PFAS at four parts per trillion. Wisconsin and Michigan previously warned people to avoid contact with foam in surface waters.