Wolverine Worldwide tannery workers drank water mixed with Scotchgard in 1999
In a statement provided to WZZM 13, Wolverine Worldwide confirmed that two chemicals, Scotchgard and Anti-Stat 7493, “mix[ed] and dilute[ed] with water in the tannery drinking fountains for a very short period of time…[due to] a plumbing malfunction.” The company said it shut off the fountains, and “determined there were no long-term risks to the employees from any incidental ingestion.” WZZM 13 requested all complaints made to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the tannery through 2009.
It’s possible no one made a complaint about the contamination, said Cindy Koomen, who worked at tannery almost 34 years.
“You believe that.” Wolverine received a letter on Jan. 15, 1999 from 3M, Scotchgard’s manufacturer, warning the shoemaker about PFAS in the product.
In the study on nearly 70,000 people, investigators found elevated levels of PFAS in blood samples of the affected population with links to those illnesses.
Of the 1,500 wells tested since April, investigators have found more than 500 with detectable PFAS levels and 99 exceeding 70 ppt.
One home in Algoma Township recorded 58,930 ppt of combined PFOS and PFOA.
Instead, the Kent County Health Department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a health survey for PFAS exposure.
It would make employees feel less like clock numbers if Wolverine considered their health effects, said Ray Bush, who got hired by the company in 1971.
“If you need something that was caused from your work, they should be liable for it.” Smith echoed Bush and said the shoemaker should test the tannery employees’ blood for PFAS and other contaminants.
According to the CDC, individual blood tests for PFAS are not clinically predictive, but community testing for a study is most useful.