The research was carried out on behalf of the local pressure group Grondrecht. As this type of blood analyses is expensive, only 10 samples were taken: 9 from people living within 1 kilometre from the 3M factory in Zwijndrecht, and 1 from someone a little bit further in Linkeroever, the west bank of the River Scheldt.
PFOS levels in all samples exceed the European threshold of 6.9 micrograms per litre blood. The lowest result was still 3.5 times above the European safety norm, the worst result turned out to be a staggering 168 times higher.
"All samples show very high rates, with half of the samples exceeding the European threshold hundreds of times", says Jacob de Boer. "I have never seen anything like this, except in staff working in a similar chemicals factory in Dordrecht, who worked with PFAS substances all their lives."
Eva Frooninckx, spokeswoman for Grondrecht, says that "these results show that the situation in Zwijndrecht and Antwerp is very serious." She adds that the government should take extra measures to limit the impact of the PFAS pollution in the area.
These results show that the situation is very serious
More results expected later on
The Flemish government has also ordered hundreds of blood samples to be taken from local residents for investigation. The results will be announced at a later stage, probably in autumn, and will give a better overview of the situation.
PFOS is a so-called 'forever chemical' belonging to the larger PFAS-group. It hardly degrades in a natural environment or in human body. The 3M factory is closed now, but used to manufacture products used for raincoats or cooking pans, among other things.
The pollution around the 3M site emerged due to construction works for the Oosterweel link around Antwerp, which should make the Antwerp Orbital Road complete. Local residents have already been told not to eat any eggs from chickens in their own garden, or any home-grown vegetables.