Islanders who believe they have become ill by drinking water contaminated with a chemical linked to cancer and kidney disease will join an international research effort, Jersey's Public Health Director has said.
Professor Peter Bradley said that while it was not yet possible to definitively attribute ‘PFAS’ to negative health impacts, there was emerging evidence of a correlation.
This is why the Government has agreed to fund blood-testing for affected people, he said.
The results will be dispatched to a laboratory in California, who will not only send the results back to Jersey but also compare them with areas around the US also contaminated with the man-made carbon-based chemical.
Prof Bradley told Express: “The science around PFAS is changing and there is increasing concern about how it can affect health.
“However, the evidence is quite difficult to interpret currently and it is not possible to attribute health impacts to PFAS.
Pictured: Director of Public Health Professor Peter Bradley: “Testing will give us an indication of whether Jersey’s results are high or low.”
He added: “Normally, you don’t test when there are no treatments available but maybe one will be found in future and some have already been proposed, such as a form of blood transfusion.”
However, the testing - which is restricted to islanders who have lived or worked in areas of known contamination and have a health condition that could be linked to PFAS - will feed into a wider body of knowledge.
“The testing programme is not only in recognition of how distressing this has been for some residents but also it allows us and them to keep track of their levels of PFAS in their blood.
“By using a US lab who are also analysing tests across that country, we can also accurately measure Jersey’s results against another population - in essence, we have a control.
“This will give us an indication of whether Jersey’s results are high or low.
“And then, as the science emerges, we might have a treatment in the future.”
To be eligible for testing, islanders must have:
Testing will be provided free of charge, as well as up to two GP appointments. Eligible islanders are asked to contact their GP to arrange an appointment to discuss referral. GP referrals need to be submitted before 16 March.
Prof Bradley reiterated that concerns over the wording of a ‘statement’ which each islander and their GP must sign in order to be referred was being dealt with.
A type of PFAS, called PFOS, was an ingredient of firefighting foam that was sprayed at the Airport until the early 90s, although another type of the chemical was sprayed until far more recently.
PFAS was developed in the post-war era and added to many everyday items, including frying pans and carpet tiles, due to its ability to resist heat, fire and oil.
It is a very tightly bound carbon molecule, which means it is very difficult to break down. This is why it has been called a ‘forever chemical’.
It also means it accumulates in the body when ingested. PFAS is present in main water in Jersey, although at levels well within current safe standards.
Internationally, those safe levels are coming down as more science emerges.
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