Experts with deep knowledge of a toxic chemical and its impact of health have been identified and will be asked to advise the Government of how ‘PFAS’ might be removed from water supplies and islanders’ bodies.
Ministers have pledged to establish a ‘Scientific Advisory Panel’ to provide independent, evidence-based answers and recommendations on how to deal with the manmade family of chemicals, which are present in island water supplies and tested residents’ blood.
PFAS was added to everyday items such as pots, pans and outdoor jackets due to its ability to resist oil, water, heat and fuel. It was also an ingredient of firefighting foam sprayed at the Airport.
However, scientific studies have linked PFAS to several serious health conditions, including cancer, kidney disease, birth defects and thyroid issues.
This year, residents who lived close to the Airport and water courses running from it – particular St. Ouen’s Bay and the Pont Marquet area of St. Brelade – were invited to take part in a Government-funded blood testing programme.
Every one of the 78 samples was found to have three types of PFAS in it, with 80% having one type, called PFHxS, at a high concentration.
The results were described by Sarah Simon, a St. Ouen’s Bay resident who believes her health and many of her neighbours has been impacted by ingesting PFAS over many years, as "truly shocking".
Last week, residents were invited to meet ministers and civil servants to share their concerns and find out how the Government intends to respond.
One of its main actions is to set up the panel of experts. It is also carrying out a ‘hydrogeological’ study to find out how PFAS is moving around the island.
Pictured: The Government is currently carrying out a hydrogeological study to determine the PFAS 'plume' in Jersey.
That study is moving from its desktop phase to actual testing, which will involving drilling several new boreholes in St. Ouen’s Bay as well as taking samples from existing sources.
It is understood that ministers assured residents that the Government was doing all it can to support them, including exploring ‘venesection’ – which is the process of drawing blood – as a possible method to reduce / remove PFAS from the body.
Speaking after the meeting, Miss Simon said: “The mood of the meeting was quite heartfelt; PFAS has clearly affected people's health. This message was loud and clear.”
She added: “Our Government, although moving in the right direction, are still not taking the matter of PFAS ingestion seriously; if they were they wouldn't be blending banned chemicals to dilute in local drinking water supplies.”
Another islander who spoke at the meeting was 57-year-old Graeme Farmer, who grew up in St. Ouen’s Bay. Mr Farmer has blood cancer, which he attributes to drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
He said: “I told the ministers and officials that a lot more needs to be done. They are not taking responsibility and have ducked the issue for years. They say that everything has been done to industry standards, but that they didn’t know at the time that what was being sprayed at the Airport was dangerous.
“But they knew it was a toxic chemical. If they would have sprayed diesel or even washing-up liquid, it would have still been harmful. Ignorance does not make you innocent.”
Mr Farmer said his blood test showed moderately high levels of PFAS despite not living in Jersey, and drinking clean mountain water in New Zealand, for 14 years.
His father had kidney cancer, his mother had a hysterectomy and his brother had to have a strip of his tongue removed, all within 18 months of each other.
He puts this all down to ingesting PFAS.
“The Government needs to be accountable,” he said. “They have offered to pay water rates for those on boreholes but it is pretty lame and pathetic. They need to put their hands in their pockets and pay compensation to the people affected.”
Around 50 islanders attended the meeting at the Pomme d’Or last week.
Those attending for the Government included Chief Minister Kristina Moore, Health Minister Karen Wilson, Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf and Director of Public Health Peter Bradley.
PFAS is found in mains drinking water but Jersey Water manage this through blending and say its supplies remain fully compliant with water quality limits for PFAS set by the EU Drinking Water Directive and UK regulations.
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