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Questions over whether PFAS panel's recommendations go far enough

Questions over whether PFAS panel's recommendations go far enough

Friday 20 October 2023

Questions over whether PFAS panel's recommendations go far enough

Friday 20 October 2023

An independent panel of scientists recruited by the Government to advise Ministers on how they should respond to the contamination of local water supplies has officially made its first recommendation – but one affected islander is asking them to go further.

In its first draft report of five, the ‘PFAS Scientific Advisory Panel’ recommended that the Government offers a programme of ‘therapeutic phlebotomy’ for residents affected by PFAS as an interim measure, pending the group carrying out a detailed review of the health effects of PFAS and the effectiveness of different types of potential interventions.

Literature reviewed by the experts found evidence to suggest that therapeutic phlebotomy – which is, in essence, taking blood in order to derive benefit for the donor –might help reduce the amount of PFAS in people’s bodies without great additional risk, and may also help increase knowledge on the subject.

Further recommendations suggest who should be offered this treatment, including one limiting it to islanders who took part in a blood testing programme in July 2022 and whose total PFAS levels measured at least ten nanograms per millilitre of blood serum.

Although welcoming the recommendation of therapeutic phlebotomy, St Ouen’s Bay resident Sarah Simon – who campaigned for the Government to take action – said that the panel should also be assessing other treatments, such as plasmapheresis, particularly for islanders who have been heavily exposed to PFAS.

She added that the panel should not assume, as it does in its draft report, that exposure to PFAS in Jersey was “historical”.

Dr Steve Hajioff PFAS 850x500.jpg

Pictured: PFAS Scientific Advisory Panel chair Dr Steve Hajioff is a former director of public health in London.

“It is not [historical] because exposure is ongoing,” she said. “There has been no official biomonitoring in Jersey since firefighting foam was used to prove that exposure has stopped or reached general worldwide background levels; the panel are to look at exposure in the environment in their fourth report.

“The only biomonitoring has been my own research indicating PFOS [a type of PFAS] levels in islanders are increasing, whereby in the rest of the world they are decreasing.

“The exposure from the Airport continues because, unlike in Guernsey, the extraction of polluted materials has never been contained but only moved around.”

Several PFAS compounds have been found in water supplies in Jersey, as well as the blood of tested islanders. 

All those tested last year lived or worked in an area of known contamination near the Airport, where fire-fighting foam containing PFAS was sprayed, polluting streams and boreholes in the area.

PFAS has been linked to causing several human health conditions, including cancer, kidney disease, immune deficiency, and infertility.

Last week, the three members of the panel – chair Dr Steve Hajioff, Dr Tony Fletcher and Professor Ian Cousins – visited Jersey for the first time as a complete panel, which was formed in May.

PFAS products.jpg

Pictured: Some of the products which have or had PFAS in them.

During a meeting with affected islanders, the panel presented its draft first report, which is now open for the public to review and add to, before it goes to Ministers for consideration.

The panel also launched the start of the second of five reports it will write, which will assess the impact of PFAS exposure on health.

Panel members also visited a site in St Peter where the Government’s Natural Environment team were testing water samples and saw first-hand the landscape and geography of the area near the airport.

Dr Hajioff said: “It was a pleasure to be in Jersey last week, to meet with islanders and present the draft report on therapeutic phlebotomy. 

“As a panel, we will recommend to ministers that a therapeutic phlebotomy service is set up and offered to islanders who were previously tested and where it is appropriate based on their individual circumstances. Islanders have until Wednesday 25 October to input into report one, before it is shared with ministers.

“We have now started working on the second of five reports: an assessment of the impact of PFAS exposure on health. The structure of the report and work areas were discussed with Islanders last week, and we have asked those affected to come forward as experts by experience. We intend to complete the draft of report two early next year.”

The Panel is writing the following reports:

  1. Review of therapeutic phlebotomy such as having blood taken to reduce PFAS levels

  2. Assessment of the impact of PFAS exposure on health

  3. Clinical interventions and blood testing and re-testing

  4. Environmental management

  5. Update on the reports covering health and interventions.


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