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Belmont woman after blood test: Wolverine Worldwide should pay medical costs

A Belmont woman's blood tested 750 times the national average for one of the PFAS chemicals.

Wolverine Worldwide should cover medical costs for people with elevated levels of PFAS in their blood, Sandy Wynn-Stelt said Sunday.

Three people in Belmont received blood test results last week showing PFAS levels over the national average, according to a Red Cross study. Wynn-Stelt's blood tested at 5 million parts per trillion (ppt), 3.2 million ppt of PFOS, 750 times above the national average.

"I'm always going to have PFAS in my system. That's just the inevitability now," Wynn-Stelt said. "If I'm this high, I can't even imagine what Joel's rates were. He just drank much more water than I did."

Wynn-Stelt's husband Joel died of liver cancer on March 26, 2016. In August, she found out their well was contaminated with the toxic industrial chemicals dumped near the property by Wolverine Worldwide during the 1960s.

The well tested at 37,800 ppt, 540 times the safe drinking water limit set by the EPA of 70 ppt. To date, that is the highest result of more than 1,000 wells tested in northern Kent County.

Wynn-Stelt said the blood test results help her better understand her thyroid and autoimmune issues, both of which are linked to PFAS exposure. Other illnesses linked to PFAS exposure are kidney and testicular cancer, liver damage and infertility.

"You really do believe [the problems] are just a part of life," she said. "And then when you hear this, you really start to put some links together and think, 'Oh my gosh, maybe this was all related.'"

In November, officials from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said there was not evidence to suggest population-level blood testing was necessary in Kent County. In a recent response to WZZM 13, MDHHS said it was in talks with the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) about the elevated results.

MDHHS and KCHD are working together to conduct a cancer study and PFAS health survey in northern Kent County. The release of the survey has been delayed due to consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Wolverine Worldwide aligned with MDHHS, saying science is not yet capable of having blood tests predict health consequences from PFAS exposure. Wynn-Stelt said the people in northern Kent County should be used to push research forward, and Wolverine should pay for it.

"I pray that we get studied to death by this because there's going to be other communities that have PFAS contamination," she said. "I think for Wolverine to hide behind that is pretty cowardly. I would like to see them step up and just be a leader in this."

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