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PFOS contamination found in air around 3M factory

© Belga

Months after unsafe levels of the chemical PFOS were discovered in the water and soil in the vicinity of a 3M factory in Antwerp, in addition to in the blood of residents living nearby, new evidence indicates the air is also polluted.

The news comes from a new study by the Flemish Research Institute for Technological Research (VITO) and the Flemish Agency for the Environment (VMM), according to reporting by De Standaard.

Researchers at eight locations measured the presence and concentration of PFOS in dust samples.

The highest concentrations were found in the area around the Oosterweel construction site, near the factory that manufacturer 3M used to occupy.

They say it isn’t yet clear to what extent the PFOS measured there originates from the polluted soil kicked up by construction or from the 3M site itself.

Rainy weather may have affected the measurements, as well, because there is less dust in the air overall during times of heavy precipitation.

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The further away from the Oosterweel site and 3M, the lower the concentrations of PFOS in the air – in the centre of the Zwijndrecht neighbourhood, a few kilometres away, the measured concentration of PFOS is already nine times lower.

The study states that the concentrations found are not alarming, but that they leave room for improvement. However, there are no clear national or international standards yet when it comes to PFOS.

VITO and VMM have now drawn up a temporary assessment framework based on an initial proposal from the developer of the Oosterweel construction project, which was guided by calculations of the European Food Safety Authority.

The next step is to map out the emissions from the 3M plant itself, both past and present.

The Environmental Inspectorate has instructed 3M to clarify this quickly with the help of independent experts.

In the meantime, people have been told to be cautious eating produce grown within a certain radius of the factor, likewise with eggs and other animal products obtained from livestock in that zone.

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