New guidelines to mitigate health risks for people living near Antwerp factory

New guidelines to mitigate health risks for people living near Antwerp factory
© Belga© Belga

Following research from the University of Antwerp that showed people living within 15 kilometres of the 3M factory in the city were facing health risks if they ate eggs from their backyard chickens, the Flemish government has introduced measures and guidelines intended to protect residents.

Researchers found that 94% of adults and 100% of children within this radius of the manufacturing plant were exceeding the consumption standard for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) after eating just two eggs a week.

The issue goes back to the 1950s, and has sparked a political divide within the Flemish government today.

The new guidelines were made to mitigate health risks for people living in the region – specifically in the Zwijndrecht municipality – and they extend for a smaller radius than the 15 kilometre one put forth by UAntwerp as the focus of their research, according to De Standaard.

Based on a risk analysis, the Flemish government’s health department recommends the following for anyone living within a radius of 1.5k km from the 3M site:

  • Children under 12, immunocompromised people, pregnant women, breastfeeding women or women who wish to become pregnant are advised not to consume home grown vegetables
  • The rest of the population is advised to consume home-grown vegetables in moderation and to keep a good mix with vegetables that have been bought from a store, while always washing vegetables well before consumption
  • Consumption of home grown small livestock is not recommended
  • Do not use groundwater as drinking water
  • Do not use groundwater from shallow wells to irrigate a vegetable garden or to fill up a swimming pool
  • Do not use compost made of material from your own garden
  • Practice good hygiene, both personal and in terms of keeping indoor areas clean
  • Avoid letting loose soil spread as much as possible
  • Do not consume home-produced eggs

For people living within a radius of 5 kilometres:

  • Do not consume home-produced eggs

For people living within a radius of 5 to 10 kilometres:

  • Eat no more than 1 home-produced egg per person per week

The precautionary measures were drawn up because of high readings of the pollutant PFOS in the vicinity of the 3M plant.

Much remains unknown in terms of how the pollutant spreads, but the guidelines serve to limit the exposure of local residents, pending more measurements of PFOS distribution and concentrations.

Research is still being done into how people are exposed to these substances and what the exact health effects of long-term exposure are.

The measures may be weakened or tightened, depending on the research still being conducted.

The Brussels Times


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