ZWIJNDRECHT (B) – Young children from the vicinity of the 3M chemical company in Zwijndrecht also appear to have a lot of PFAS in their blood.
Annick Willens, Tessa van den Bosch
The Flemish political party PVDA had the blood of twenty children between the ages of two and twelve years tested for PFOS, one of the most well-known types of PFAS. Six children had elevated levels of PFOS in their blood. The values of the children who ate eggs from their own poultry were higher. Three kids are in the highest category, according to the results VTM Nieuws is able to see.
The PVDA conducted the study because, in its own words, there was a lot of concern among parents, although the party stresses that this is a sample and not a scientific study.
Earlier, the Flemish government had tested the blood of nearly 800 adults from the vicinity of 3M. Half of the participants had an extremely high level of PFOS in their blood. This is the reason why the Flemish Agency for Care and Health invited everyone who lives within 5 kilometers of 3 meters to have a blood test last week. It concerns all residents of Zwijndrecht, Antwerp Left Bank, Melsele, Kallo and part of the municipality of Kruibeke. In total, there are between 60,000 and 70,000 eligible people. More than 2,000 people have registered since last Tuesday. You can register until June 1.
Last fall, the blood of a resident of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen was tested on his own initiative. The values he possessed were comparable with the highest values of the Zwijndrecht population. This raised the question of whether a similar population screening should be carried out in Zeeland. GGD Zeeland awaits the results of the RIVM investigation into the consequences of PFAS discharge in Western Scheldt before possibly beginning population screening.
In Zwijndrecht, among other things, Mieke Van Laer checked her children, she told VTM Nieuws. The family lives in Borcht, about four kilometers from the 3M factory. Ten-year-old son Mickey has 11 micrograms of PFOS per liter of blood. Her six-year-old daughter has 20 micrograms of PFOS in her blood, a value considered “alarming” in an adult male. “I still let them play outside, but they have to wash their hands constantly,” says Mickey. “It looks as if there is a dark cloud hanging over our garden, because it might swallow up extra PFOS.” “I am very angry with 3M, but also with the government,” she says. According to Mickey, he should have announced the scandal much earlier.
Impact on health
According to Professor Nick van Larebeck (UGent), the effect of PFOS on the body is problematic, but not catastrophic. However, it does make some complaints, according to previous research done on teens. For example, there is a risk of a slight delay in sexual development, a possible decrease in short-term memory and an increase in drowsiness. This is all due to a hormonal disruption, van Larribeek explains. Additionally, once PFOS is present in the blood, nothing can be done to lower the levels.
Last year, the government actually surveyed 800 of the adult population, but not on children. However, the Health and Welfare Agency and the Cabinet of Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beck (CD&V) announced that a new, large-scale study will be launched.
The results of last year’s research prompted the Care and Health Administration to expand precautionary measures, such as not drinking water from its well or eating eggs from its chickens. However, it is not possible to predict on the basis of the blood result whether and which adverse health consequences may appear.
New blood samples will likely start in the fall and will have to be distributed over several years due to limitations in laboratory capacity.
Problems with PFOS contamination at 3M in Zwijndrecht surfaced last year during excavations at the Oosterweeltunnel. The American chemical giant produced the substance up to twenty years ago, but since it is not biodegradable, the site around the plant is still heavily polluted. After discontinuation of PFOS production, 3M switched to another PFOS.
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