PFOS pollution scandal: Report shows people have been ingesting pollutant mainly through food
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PFOS pollution scandal: Report shows people have been ingesting pollutant mainly through food

Credit: Belga

Perfluorooctane Sulphonate (PFOS) has been ingested mainly through food in areas in Flanders with high concentrations of the global pollutant, according to a group of experts led by chemist Karl Vrancken.

Vrancken’s group was tasked by the Flemish Government with coordinating the management of pollution by Perfluorooctanic acid (PFAS), the family of polluants found present in significant quantities in the ground in Antwerp during the Oosterweel works. Vrancken presented his group’s first midterm report on Friday.

The results of blood tests taken recently in Flanders will only be available in late October. In the meantime, the region will continue implementing precautionary measures, the most important of which is that people living within a certain zone need to avoid eating vegetables they themselves have grown, Vrancken said on Friday. On the other hand, farmers in that area can continue to market their produce.

“People who eat only what comes from their own vegetable gardens are exposed only to their own produce (…). We advise them to vary, and in an average store you find a variety of food from different sources,” Vrancken, who is a research coordinator on sustainable materials at the VITO research organization, explained.

According to Vrancken, Belgians have taken in too much PFOS through food.

The average quantities they ingest exceed the limit beyond which these substances present a risk to people’s health, according to a European study.

“This is a long-term problem that requires a long-term approach,” Vrancken said. “There is no need to react with very sharp measures. We need to move towards a systemic approach, in which we will work on all components, whether it’s food or wastewater.”

Such an approach comes with a price tag, however. “There’s the research, the affected businesses demand compensation, people have additional expenses,” Vrancken explained. “We need to ask the question, ‘Who will foot the bill?’ In principle, the polluter pays.”

Over the next few months, the group of experts he leads aims to identify the paths the pollution has followed.

The Brussels Times