While cruising along the Michigan roadways, you may have noticed a peculiar foam that collects near the shoreline of some ponds, lakes, and streams. It comes in different shades of color, and sort of looks like someone did their laundry at the lakeside. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has a word of warning if you encounter the creepy-looking foam on one of your adventures: Don't touch it!

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Two types of foam is appearing near Michigan waterbodies. Health authorities say avoid it!
Clement Remond/Unsplash

What is Causing this Foam?

It’s usually the kids who think it’s funny to slap some of the foam on their heads, or the back of their buddy. Worse yet, your dog will likely want to sniff it, while playing along the shoreline. The MDHHS says to avoid it like the plague. 

There are two types of foam that can form on any waterbody. Sometimes foam can contain harmful chemicals or bacteria.  

  • Natural foam. It’s usually off-white or brownish in color and has a funky fishy or earthly scent. It tends to pile up in bays, eddies, or at river barriers such as dams. 
  • Chemical foam. This stuff is particularly nasty. PHAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) foam is usually bright white in color, lightweight, and may pile up along shores or blow onto beaches. Some studies in people have found that repeated high PFAS exposure is linked to liver damage and thyroid disease, among other health effects. 

What Do I Do If I or My Dog Comes in Contact with This Stuff? 

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive, warns, 

“We advise you to avoid contact with foam if you can, but if you accidentally come into contact with the foam, you should rinse off as soon as possible. Rinsing off in general after water activities is always a good idea.” 

Michigan health authorities are warning pet owners about foam on some Michigan waterbodies.
Oscar Sutton/Unsplash

A Special Warning To Pet Owners 

Animals are at risk of swallowing foam built up in their fur when grooming themselves. If animals do come into contact with the foam, they should be rinsed off and bathed with fresh water. Pet owners with questions related to animals and foam ingestion should contact their veterinarian. 

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