Islanders who believe their health has been adversely impacted by a manmade chemical once sprayed at the Airport have welcomed the launch of an official blood-testing programme after more than a year of campaigning.
People who lived or worked in areas of known contamination are being invited to have a blood sample sent to a laboratory in California, where it will be tested for a range of PFAS – a family of carbon-based chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reduced immunity and fertility, birth defects and thyroid problems.
Exceptionally difficult to break down, those in the PFAS group are known as ‘forever chemicals’.
One of that family, called PFOS, was an ingredient of fire-fighting foam sprayed at the Airport until the early 90s when it was banned.
High concentrations of PFOS have been found in St. Ouen’s Bay and the Pont Marquet area of St. Brelade’s, where water from the Airport drains, although traces of PFAS is present in all drinking water in Jersey.
Last night, residents met Government officials, including Director of Public Health Dr Peter Bradley and Assistant Chief Minister Rowland Huelin to hear more details about the programme.
Pictured: Sarah Simon has lived her whole life under the western end of the Airport runway.
One of them, Sarah Simon, who has been campaigning for blood-testing, as well as a committee of inquiry into the Government’s handling of the issue since 2020, said: “It’s a step in the right direction by the Government and the residents I have spoken to, who know they have been exposed to these forever chemicals would like to thank all the officials who have contributed to allowing blood tests.
“The Government of Jersey is joining the rest of the world in recognising the cost of inaction to our environment and the substantial health impacts linked to PFAS exposure.
“This has been a long battle. I have spent the last seven years researching the effects of PFAS, I have written three reports and sent countless emails to politicians and civil servants before, finally, someone has listened.
“This has been a problem in Jersey since at least 1986 and since then it is my firm belief that people have died as consequence of drinking PFAS-contaminated water
“I would particularly like to thank Professor Bradley, whose appointment last year really seems to have made the difference.
Another resident, former senior Airport executive Jeremy Snowden, said: “This is a first step in the right direction and it is welcomed.
“But much more needs to be done now. Jersey Water continues to hide behind outdated safety levels despite knowing that the EU's Food Safety Agency, which is the source of original safety figures, has adopted drastically lower levels.
“The source of the bulk of the contamination also remains in situ, leaching into the environment. This must be removed."
Pictured: Director of Public Health Professor Peter Bradley is credited with bringing new thinking to the Government's approach to PFAS.
He continued: “There is much to do, but our [Government] regulator refuses to act despite at least three laws which appear applicable.
“We need a regulator who is independent and required to act not the current paper tiger.”
Deputy Huelin, who is also Deputy of St. Peter, recognised that blood testing was only a first step, albeit an important one.
“I am delighted that the residents have received acknowledgment after being greatly concern for many years,” he said. “We can listen to them and test their blood for PFAS, which has been linked to potential health problems.”
He added that the blood would be send to an independent laboratory in California renowned for its work on PFAS.
Pictured: Assistant Chief Minister and Deputy of St. Peter, Deputy Rowland Huelin, said the testing was an important first step.
“We are monitoring all the advances and understanding about PFAS submitted on a global basis to be better prepared to advise patients and practitioners,” he said.
“Over the next week, Health will be speaking to GPs about this programme, so we urge islanders to hold off contacting their doctors for a few days for all the details to be shared.
“A budget has been approved, which allows us to be flexible and adequately meets the numbers we are expecting.”
Asked about whether the plan had been approved by 3M, the firefighting foam manufacturer with which the Government signed a controversial £2.6m deal with in 2004, Deputy Huelin said the Government would not have set up the blood testing programme were it not legally watertight.
He said: “As well as report back to us, the lab will use the anonymised data to compare and contrast with research around the world to broaden the global understanding of the impact of PFAS, which it is fair to say has been buried in the past by corporate America for financial gain.”
Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said: “This has been a very long-standing matter and I am pleased that we are now able to offer expert PFOS testing to eligible islanders who have been concerned about the issue for some time.
“The testing supplier and laboratory we are using has an excellent reputation internationally, so islanders who choose to be tested should be reassured that they will be receiving the best possible PFOS testing to guarantee accurate and reliable results.
“Two GP appointments will be provided free of charge to ensure that those Islanders who are eligible for testing have had a discussion with their GP to determine whether testing is the right option for them."
Islanders will need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for testing and must have:
lived in the historical plume area for more than one year, or worked in the area for more than two years, between 1991 and 2006;
regularly consumed water from a borehole in the area;
at least one symptom that is consistent with the health concerns that may be related to PFAS;
and obtain a GP referral for testing, signed and dated by the resident and the GP.
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.
There are no comments for this article.