Blood tests show high levels of PFAs as state sues Wolverine Worldwide

Posted at 7:20 PM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 19:20:50-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -  A law firm representing several residents living near former Wolverine Worldwide dumpsites calls new blood test results shocking. The state is now also adding to the company's legal woes, filing a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday.

Friday, Varnum Law received lab results for a handful of their 215+ residential client list. Results came back for people living near the original testing site on House Street and nearby contaminated wells showing high levels of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

The chemicals were used in scores of industrial applications and have been detected in human and animal blood around the world. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said scientists are uncertain about how they affect human health at exposure levels typically found in food and water. But some studies suggest the chemicals might affect fetal development, disrupt hormonal functions, damage fertility and immune systems, and boost the risk of cancer.

Aaron Phelps, a partner at Varnum Law, says the findings are shocking, showing people with contaminated blood levels with dangerously high levels compared to Environmental Protection Agency standards. Those test results include a 2-year-old child whose blood contains PFAS  level hundreds of times higher than the national average.

Varnum has now filed more than 50 suits against Wolverine Worldwide, and the West Michigan based shoe company has until February 12 to respond. The state says its lawsuit is needed to formalize the footwear company's response to the contamination and to reimburse the government for past and future costs.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says while the company has been cooperative, but a judge should still order Wolverine to prevent endangerment to public health, abate the contamination and pay state enforcement and other costs.

Wolverine says the suit was anticipated and the company is working collaboratively with regulators.

The company has also created a blog to provide the community with updates on the situation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.