“(CNN) — It’s been about three weeks since Tammy Cooper last drank water from her tap. That’s when she saw a warning on Facebook for residents of her small Western Michigan town to stop drinking the water.
In Michigan, water main breaks aren’t unusual, although they’re more common in winter. It didn’t immediately strike Cooper as out of the ordinary to not be able to drink the water.
But the Facebook message made no mention of the run-of-the-mill breaks or chloroform warnings; rather, the city’s July 26 post said, ‘We have just been informed this afternoon by the [Michigan Department of Environmental Quality] that the PFAS level in a City well is 1400 ppt. The limit being 70 ppt.’
It advised using bottled water for cooking, drinking and making baby formula.
‘I immediately felt really sick,’ Cooper said.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of more than 4,000 synthetic chemicals that degrade very slowly, if at all, in the environment. Some of the best-known chemicals are PFOS, PFOA and GenX.
It’s not the first time Michigan has dealt with toxic tap water; the legacy of Flint is not far behind. But unlike in the Flint lead crisis, it’s unknown how long the water in Parchment has been contaminated with PFAS.
Now, all Cooper could see were toxins all over her house, poisoning her nearly 3-year-old daughter, Jillian, who has lived in Parchment most of her life…
The chemicals have been used for decades on military bases and in industrial areas in the manufacturing of thousands of consumer items including food packaging materials, water-resistant fabrics, nonstick cooking pans and firefighting foams…
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS exposure has been linked to low birth weight, immunological disorders, cancer and thyroid hormone disruption.
And that is what exactly worries Cooper. She can’t help but wonder whether the more than two years her family has lived in Parchment have been the root of their health issues.
‘You just start thinking, ‘well, we were sick a lot,’ ‘ she said…
Cooper and her husband David prioritize healthy living: They buy organic food; they wash their hands often; they diligently use laundry detergent ‘free and clear’ of unnecessary chemicals; she breastfed her daughter for nearly 3 years. So could there be a connection to the water? After all, her thyroid hormone levels went down after her pregnancy. ‘It causes all these questions,’ she said.
Her biggest concern is Jillian. She was small, measuring in the 10th percentile for weight when they moved to Parchment when she was 6 months old. A year later, she had dropped below the 1st percentile in weight. After Cooper focused on feeding her a higher-fat and -protein diet, Jillian’s weight is now in the 4th percentile.
‘Is it the water?’ Cooper wonders. Could it have been her breast milk? ‘She’s nursed the entire duration that we’ve lived here. Everything that I’ve read, if you’re nursing a child, you’re passing it on to them.’ …
Cooper reached out to Jillian’s pediatrician immediately after she read the Facebook announcement. Her doctor is concerned there could be a connection between the water and Jillian’s growth, but there is little to nothing they can do about it now.
Since the city’s announcement, Cooper decided to wean her daughter off breastfeeding. ‘I didn’t want it to end this way. The last thing I want to remember is this special thing to be terminated because of this thing in the water,’ she said.
‘Maybe I don’t have any health issues from the water, but there’s a major cost to your mental health, because you’re in charge of this little person, and you feel like you’re failing.’
It’s an anxiety that has occupied many other parents in the area, like Sara Dean…
Dean can’t help but wonder what the impact of Parchment’s water has been on her 2-year-old boy and the child with which she is 30 weeks pregnant. Like Jillian, Dean’s son, Patrick, is on the smaller side, and her baby is measuring smaller in the womb.
‘Do I make small babies,’ Dean questions, ‘or do I make small babies because I drink poisoned water?’ “
Read the full article by Nadia Kounang