There has been a delay in issuing PFOS testing referral forms to GPs after campaigners challenged wording that asked doctors and patients to agree that there was “no evidence for a causal relationship between PFOS/PFAS exposure and significant health impacts.”
But islanders who are concerned that their health may have been impacted by drinking water contaminated by the toxic chemical are still being urged to contact their GP – despite not all surgeries being aware of the new testing programme.
Last week, the Government launched a scheme for people who have been affected by the historic use of ‘PFAS’, which was an ingredient of firefighting foam sprayed at the Airport until the early 90s.
This was in response to the concerns of some islanders, particularly those who live or worked in St. Ouen's Bay.
Islanders must meet certain criteria to have a taxpayer-funded test, which includes living in a known contaminated area, having at least one known symptom that may be related to PFAS ingestion, and obtaining a referral form signed by their GP.
However, there has been a delay in issuing that form to GP surgeries after some of its wording was challenged by local campaigners, who have called for Government recognition of the PFAS issue, and action, for at least a decade.
Dr Bryony Perchard, a member of the Primary Care Group, said that all surgery practice managers had been sent an email by the Government last Monday, giving details of the programme, but it was entirely possible that the information may not have filtered down to all GPs.
Pictured: PFAS is a manmade carbon chain which was used in a variety of items until it was linked to causing cancer and other health problems.
“I would urge affected islanders to book an appointment, which is free, and I’m sure GPs will be prepared to support patients as much as they can,” she said. “We are not providing the tests ourselves but are more than happy to act as a gatekeeper on behalf of the Public Health, with whom we have a good working relationship.”
The Government has now agreed to reword its 'statement', which initially asked GPs and patients to agree that that there was “no evidence for a causal relationship between PFOS/PFAS exposure and significant health impacts”, each needing to provide a signature.
The latest scientific evidence, however, suggests exposure to these chemicals can have adverse health effects for humans.
It is understood that it was framed in a particular way because the manufacturer of the firefighting foam, 3M, has agreed to targeted testing of affected people but not to a general screening of the wider population.
3M’s acquiescence is required because the Government signed a ‘deed of settlement’ in 2004, prohibiting the States’ ability to take any legal action against the US firm in exchange for £2.6m, which was used to build a new fire-training rig at the Airport and clear the upper levels of contaminated soil.
Testing will be free of charge, as well as up to two GP appointments. Referrals need to be submitted to Public Health by GPs before 16 March.
To be eligible, Islanders must have:
Public Health will then review the referrals to make sure the eligibility criteria is met and will confirm to GPs whether the referral has been accepted.
Islanders who have been accepted for referral will need to pick up a completed blood test form before they are invited to give a blood sample at the Hospital, which is likely to start in May.
It is expected that results will take up to eight weeks after the samples have been sent to a laboratory in California, with results likely to be available in July.
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