The Flemish Minister Demir threatened to shut down the Belgian 3M plant within 48 hours if 3M didn’t cooperate. However, nothing happened. 48 hours later and the plant nor any other operations have been shut down. It may have been an empty threat.
Correction: some operations where shut down just after the publication of this article: 3M Plant Shut Down
The city Council of Zwijndrecht where the 3M plant is located jumped on the bandwagon. They asked 3M to compensate all the victims of PFAS contamination otherwise they will file a complaint. 3M has 14 days to agree on the principle of compensation. This may be another empty threat.
Citizens within a radius of 3 km have been tested (blood samples) on PFAS (see results below). However, the PFAS contamination went much further than 3 km, so why limit the testing to a radius of 3 km? Is it because Antwerp is just one kilometre further down? Who says Antwerp, says hundred thousands of potential contaminated people. In fact, the whole of Flanders may have been contaminated with PFAS.
On the following link, Google Map, you will see an aerial view of the 3M plant. You will see a lake next to the 3M plant, zoom in and notice the blue colour on the edge of the lake. See here Google Map. Some say that 3M may have dumped much more in the environment than just PFAS.
Antwerp and Flanders decided to build a new highway called project “Oosterweel” after 15 years of negotiations. The Flemish Government established Lantis, a publicly-owned company, to manage the construction works. High concentrations of PFAS were found in the soil when the works started. They traced the origin back to the 3M plant in Zwijndrecht. Lantis was afraid that a scandal would put the project on hold. So Lantis and 3M signed a secret deal to keep this PFAS scandal quiet. Read more …Belgium PFAS Fiasco
Coup de Poker
There seem to be an agreement allowing Lantis to dump PFAS contaminated soil on the property of 3M. 3M may have threatened Lantis to stop the dumping if the government went through with their threats. In that case, Lantis would have to stop construction works jeopardising the whole Osterweel project.
N-VA Politicians (Flemish nationalists) seemed to have played a determinant role in this fiasco. This may be the reason why some politicians are afraid to open the box of pandora.
Some say that Lantis is a house of cards or a corrupt organisation. Morally corrupt of financially corrupt; or just opportunism?
Blood Test Conclusion
- The study gives us a good picture of the local situation.
Serum PFAS was measured in 796 people living within a radius of 3 km around the 3M site in Zwijndrecht. The research group is not representative of the general population of the research area (zones in Zwijndrecht, Melsele and Linkeroever). More older people and people from a family with a higher education degree participated than there are on average living in the area. Nevertheless, the results are valid because the group is large and because the factors that we want to investigate (eg use of local food) are sufficiently covered in the studied group.
- PFOS poses a health risk to residents in the vicinity of 3M.
Residents in the vicinity of the 3M site mainly have PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS and PFNA in the body. In comparison with the general Flemish population, we mainly find higher values for PFOS and PFHxS in the bodies of residents near the 3M site. These are two substances known to have been produced by 3M in the past. Because they are difficult to break down in the environment, people can still be exposed to these substances.
For PFOS, only 1 in 10 participants has a value where no health effects are expected. More than half of the participants have a PFOS level that is too high from a health point of view. This result is an important signal at group level that action must be taken to limit/stop exposure. However, it does not mean that individual participants will suffer immediate health damage.
- Residents who live close to the industry have higher levels of PFAS in their blood.
There is a clear geographic gradient from the 3M plant: people who live closer to the plant or who have lived in the study area for a longer period of time have higher blood PFAS levels. These results suggest that there is a link between body exposure and industry.
- Locally grown food is an important route of exposure for PFAS.
Participants who eat locally grown food have higher PFAS levels in their blood. We see this especially for eggs from our own chickens and for the use of groundwater.
We find less strong connections for vegetables and fruit from our own garden. A possible explanation for this is that people who eat local fruits and vegetables often also have their own chickens. The results of the eggs are so strong that they may mask the impact of the other local products. It is important to further explore this in more in-depth analyzes and to link the right policy advice to this.
- Other factors also influence exposure to the different PFAS.
It is remarkable that we find higher PFOS values in people who come into contact with soil particles through their profession, hobby or education; this is an element that will also be examined in more detail in a later phase, so that correct advice can be formulated on this.
The use of lubricants (e.g. for bicycle chain or horse saddle maintenance) was also identified as a source of exposure for PFOA and PFNA. A general advice is to only use lubricants that do not contain Teflon (PTFE). It is important to raise awareness about this in the future.