Significant increase in PFOS concentrations in air measurements near 3 M in Zwijndrecht

During measurements in air, very high concentrations of PFOS were measured between mid-May and mid-June on the Neerstraat in Zwijndrecht, near the chemical company 3M. This was reported by the Flemish government. There appears to be no immediate health risk, but the Environment Inspectorate is already urging 3M to take additional measures pending an investigation into the exact source. Environmental associations find such “incidents unacceptable”.

Following established contamination with PFOS and PFOS in soil, the Flemish Environment Agency is conducting air measurements at several sites in Zwijndrecht. At a measurement point, south of 3M on Neerstraat, there appeared to be a surprising amount of PFOS in suspension during previous measurement periods: from May 17 to June 1 it was 14 nanograms per cubic metre, from June 1 through June 15 it was still 3.6 nanograms per cubic meter. The framework for provisional assessment of the annual mean concentration is only 0.4 nanograms per cubic metre. There were also very high concentrations of three other PFAS (PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS) in Neerstraat. So the total PFAS is 15.3 nanograms per cubic meter in the second half of May. For comparison: throughout 2022, the highest value measured every two weeks was 0.77 nanograms per cubic meter.

According to the Flemish government, the figures confirm the hypothesis that exceptional weather conditions such as drought and wind contribute to increased PFAS values. During the said period it was very dry and the winds came mainly from the northeast-northeast.

Do not panic

The Department of Environment’s Environmental Inspection Department is still investigating the exact source of the contamination, but has already urged 3M to take measures to prevent the spread of dust, to place additional measuring poles on its own site, and to increase the frequency. of measurements there. 3M should investigate further whether there are any potential emission points that could explain the increased PFAS concentrations. Note: Oosterweelbouwheer Lantis also receives a reminder to prevent wind drift, although the Flemish government itself states that there is no longer any contaminated soil on the site between site E34 and 3M.

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PFAS coordinator Hans Reynders assures that there is no reason for panic among the local population. “We understand that the people of Zwijndrecht are shocked by this,” he says. However, it must be emphasized that there is no direct danger to the health of the local population. After all, the standard aims to avoid long-term exposure in order to prevent chronic health effects, such as immune disruption. However, we, the Flemish government, must intervene to prevent this problem from continuing. We will impose additional measures as necessary.

Meanwhile, adhering to “no regrets” measures is still important for the local population, according to the Flemish government. It is about hygiene measures and measures related to the consumption of home-grown vegetables or eggs from hens from their own garden.

‘unacceptable’

Bond Peter Leefmilieu, Zwijndrecht Gezond and Natuurpunt Waasland have expressed their concern in a joint response and are asking for more extensive monitoring at the expense of 3M, stricter enforcement and faster communication with local residents. The sources of PFAS must be identified faster and more accurately so that the spread of these dangerous pollutants can be addressed more quickly. Such incidents are not acceptable. The prevalence of PFAS exposes the population to serious health risks. Thus, the reaction after only a month and a half of the facts is inaudible and irresponsible.

Megan Vasquez

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