An islander campaigning for a public inquiry into the poisoning of water supplies has called the Government's latest official report into PFAS contamination "a farce."
St. Peter resident Sarah Simon – who has tested her own blood to show that she has dangerous levels of the man-made chemical in her body – is highly critical of a study that has recently been published by the Government.
PFAS is the name given to a family of man-made chemicals that were manufactured in the second half of the last century. Their resistance to heat, oil and water meant they formed part of many household products, including food packaging and cookware.
One of the family, called PFOS, was a common ingredient in firefighting foam, which was used at the Airport in the early 1990s.
However, studies later found that the chemicals were not only highly persistent, both in the environment and the human body, but it also could cause problems with the organs and glands, including cancerous tumours.
The report – the second ‘interim’ paper on the subject by the Government - makes little mention the health problems with PFAS, reiterating the official advice that Islanders with health concerns should visit their GP.
Pictured: Sarah Simon has lived her whole life in St Ouen's Bay, close to the western end of the runway, where toxic firefighting foam was sprayed.
It repeats the official advice from the now retired Medical Officer of Health that "blood tests are not recommended to determine whether any medical condition is attributable to exposure to PFOS or PFOA and have no current value in informing clinical management."
It also reiterates the MoH's view that there is no evidence confirming adverse effects on human health caused by exposure to PFAS and that no specific health screening is appropriate or warranted. This has been strongly denied by Miss Simon, who is one of a number of Islanders who believe that their health has been badly affected by ingesting the chemical.
However, the latest report does recommend that the group of civil servants and officers leading the Government's investigation of PFOS must keep itself updated on "any changes that increase the understanding and efficacy of testing blood for PFAS."
Commenting on the latest report, which she called "a farce" and "flawed", Miss Simon said: “Public health should be the Government’s top priority, yet it is hardly mentioned, and the recommendation is to once again go to your GP who knows absolutely nothing about PFAS poisoning and, secondly, has no one to refer their patients to. In my own enquiries, I’ve been told that the decision to investigate health lies with the Attorney General, which seems an odd person to make that call.”
In the report, called 'PFAS and water quality in Jersey 2020', Environment Minister John Young says that he had submitted a funding proposal in the next Government Plan to pay for hydrogeological surveys of St. Ouen Bay and Pont Marquet in St. Brelade – where PFOS from the Airport has been found in high concentrations.
Jersey Water has been calling for these surveys to be completed as soon as possible because they are currently unable to draw water from boreholes in these areas. The States majority-owned company argue that the Island’s future water security is under threat without access to these important sources.
But Miss Simon says that the Government is going over old ground.
“Both Ports of Jersey and the Government have had many hydrological surveys done of the plume since the water contamination was discovered in 1995. Why has remediation not been taken place since then? Why has the Government only taken responsibility for cleaning up their mess now, 20 years too late? The answer is simple: take PFAS out of water before it gets into the mains supply and offer those on borehole that contain PFAS filtration systems to remove the chemical and other toxins that have been put there over the years.”
The latest report adds seven recommendations to the 18 made in the first interim paper. As well as keeping up to date on the efficacy of blood testing, new suggestions include "implementing a targeted risk-based programme of long-term sampling of surface and groundwater across the Island" and identifying how water containing PFOS, such as in St. Ouen's Bay 'plume area' of contamination, can be cleaned up.
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