An islander who is believes that she has been poisoned by a chemical sprayed at the Airport has called official Government advice on the issue “nonsense and insulting."
Sarah Simon is one of many people – particularly those living with the ‘plume area’ of contamination in St. Ouen’s Bay – who believe that their health has been badly affected by ingesting PFOS, a now-banned toxin that was once a component of firefighting foam.
Last month, Express reported that Miss Simon had tested her own blood, as well as those of family, friends and neighbours, for the presence of PFOS. The results show she had double the amount of the chemical that is deemed ‘safe’ while others had far higher readings.
But the Government’s view – expressed by retiring Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Turnbull and other officials – is that there is no link between PFOS and ill health. It also says that blood testing is not recommended as it “cannot be meaningfully interpreted."
Pictured: Sarah Simon has researched the impact of PFOS and its related chemicals for five years.
However, this has been strongly rejected by Miss Simon, who has been researching the issue for five years. She says that there is a wealth of evidence to prove that PFOS – together with its sister chemical PFOA, which are both parts of the PFAS group of manmade ‘forever’ chemicals - are damaging to health.
She said: “The Government have known for many years that residents in the plume consumed PFAS in their drinking water and the Medical Officer of Health has a duty of care to review and monitor the health of those residents that have been poisoned by a highly toxic substance. Medical monitoring for plume residents has never taken place, and I ask why is this?
“Government policy clearly states those concerned with having been poisoned by PFAS toxins are to consult with local health professionals, and this is reiterated in one of the recommendations of an official interim report into PFAS, which was published last year.
“But, in my experience, GPs have no training or understanding of PFAS poisoning, nor is there a toxicologist to refer patients to. Which health professionals are islanders supposed to be consulting? Why are blood tests for PFAS being refused when they are clearly a biomarker in the blood for these toxins?”
Miss Simon attacked an interim report of last July, written by group of civil servants and managers from Jersey Water, which concluded: "Worldwide, research into the relationship between PFAS exposure and health effects is limited and has concluded that there is no current evidence that supports a large impact on a person’s health as a result of high levels of PFAS exposure."
Pictured: An official map of the plume area of PFOS contamination in St. Ouen's Bay.
She said: “This view, which echoes that of the MoH, is absolute nonsense and is very insulting to islanders that clearly have suffered chronic illness due to the ingestion of PFAS.
“How can this statement possibly be true when Rob Bilott – a US lawyer whose battle against chemical giant DuPont was featured in the film Dark Waters - proved in a court of law that exposure to PFOA, which is a carbon copy of PFOS, results in diseases that include cancer?
Pictured: Sarah Simon has been inspired by the work of US lawyer Rob Bilott, whose successful battle against chemical giant DuPont was featured in the 2019 film Dark Waters.
“PFAS is a carcinogenic, persistent, bio-accumulative and highly toxic to mammals. It is now known that PFOS is highly toxic having a severe detrimental effect on a person’s liver, the link to thyroid disease.
“I’m afraid I think the outgoing MoH is in denial. She should have declared a public health crisis as a direct result of Government knowledge that islanders have been exposed to drinking large quantities of PFAS in their drinking water.
“Her claim that there are no adverse health effects is simply outrageous and an insult to the medical profession. I should know, having spent five years of my life researching the pollution caused by PFAS around the globe. I didn’t want to but I was forced to by a Government that simply continues not to provide answers or assistance.”
Along with calling for Government-backing testing of affected islanders, Miss Simon wants to see an independent public inquiry established to ascertain where the poisonous firefighting foam was used and disposed of on the island.
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