PFAS pollution: blood tests for everybody in 5 km radius of 3M plant

Everybody living within a 5 km radius of the 3M chemicals factory in Zwijndrecht (Antwerp Province) can get their blood tested for PFAS chemicals that are widely used in industry, but can pose a threat to health.  Last week it emerged that nine out of ten local residents had excessively high PFAS levels in their blood.

A first investigation looking at the blood analysis of 800 people living within a 3 km radius of the factory threw up disturbing results.  Only one in ten of those that took part had PFAS blood levels that didn’t pose a threat to health.  In response the Flemish government ordered a wider investigation.

Flemish health minister Beke explained that the results triggered concern in the wider community around the 3M plant.

“It was an important request from people in the neighbourhood.  They wanted to be able to have individual blood tests carried out. We are now responding to this request.”

Everybody living within a 5 km radius of the plant can get their blood tested.  The municipalities of Beveren and Zwijndrecht are involved in the operation.  The area concerned is bordered by the River Schelde.  People on the left bank can get tested.

In all some 70,000 people qualify for tests looking for the presence of dangerous PFAS chemicals.  The investigation will take several months: “I can’t yet provide an exact timing” says Minister Beke.  “It depends on lab and analysis capacity.”

“In recent months experts worked round the clock to take 800 samples and get them analysed.  It’s going to take a lot of time.”

The Flemish government is examining whether children too can be tested in a less invasive way to adults.  The government expects to recoup the cost of the operation from 3M.

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