The Chief Medical Officer of a biotech research company has been appointed to lead the panel advising Jersey's Government on how to deal with a toxic chemical in island water supplies.
Dr Steve Hajioff will chair the ‘Independent PFAS Scientific Advisory Panel’ – a group of experts who will make recommendations to the island’s Director of Public Health on how Jersey should respond to PFAS – a manmade chemical which has been linked to causing cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, thyroid problems and other conditions.
The panel has been set up in response to the concerns of islanders, particularly those who live or work in areas of known contamination, who believe that their health has been adversely impacted by drinking water containing the chemical.
PFAS is the collective acronym for a family of synthetic carbon chains, which have been called ‘forever chemicals’ due to their inability to break down in the body or the environment.
PFAS was an ingredient added to everyday items such as frying pans, outdoor jackets and floor tiles because of its ability to repel water, heat, and oil.
Pictured: The lake at Simon Sand and Gravel in St. Ouen's Bay has been found to have high levels of PFAS, including in its fish.
One type, called PFOS, was an ingredient of firefighting foam sprayed at the Airport for several years until the chemical was banned in the 1990s.
Professor Peter Bradley, Director of Public Health said: “I’m delighted that Steve Hajioff has agreed to chair the independent panel. He is particularly well suited to this role because of his background as a doctor and his significant experience leading panels that developed clinical guidelines for England.
“In appointing Steve as chair, we engaged a stakeholder panel which included three residents from the community that had their blood tested for level of PFAS. I am grateful for their input and find it very assuring that Steve was the preferred chair of both the stakeholder panel and interview panel.”
Dr Hajioff added: “This is an exciting opportunity to hear the voices of the community, to explore an emerging area of science and to make recommendations on effective and meaningful ways to respond to the situation. It is an honour to be asked to lead this process.”
The topics the panel will report on are: clinical interventions; the assessment of evidence on health impacts of PFAS; PFAS blood testing and re-testing; and environmental management.
Last year, 78 islanders volunteered to have their blood tested for PFAS as part of a Government-sponsored programme.
Every one of them was found to have it in their blood, with 80% having at least one type of PFAS at a high concentration.
The Government said that Dr Hajioff had experience in leading multi-disciplinary panels as well as leading programmes relating to the environment and health, the development of new healthcare technologies and the development of rules and policies.
He is currently in the process of appointing additional members to sit with him on the panel.
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