May 28, 2023
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PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS: Perpetual danger in Europe with the chemicals in water and soil

These chemicals have been found in around 17,000 locations in Europe. Of these, chemicals have been detected in high concentrations of more than 1,000 nanograms per liter of water at about 640 sites and more than 10,000ng/l at 300 sites

Substances, called “permanent chemicals”, which do not break down in the environment, accumulate in the body and can be toxic have been found at high levels in many locations in Europe, according to a new study.

Experts mapped these perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS), which include about 10,000 chemicals derived from human activities (mostly waste from industries) that contaminate water and soil.

Two of these substances have been linked to serious health problems. For example, PFOA has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension. PFOS has been linked to reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney and thyroid diseases.

Chemicals on our plate?

These chemicals have been found in around 17,000 locations in Europe. Of these, chemicals have been detected in high concentrations of more than 1,000 nanograms per liter of water at about 640 sites and more than 10,000ng/l at 300 sites.

Crispin Halsall, an environmental chemist at Lancaster University, expressed his concern to the Guardian. “There is a risk that animals will gain access to these waters and then end up on our plate.”

The most dangerous areas

According to the map, Belgium has the highest levels of pollution, with chemicals found in groundwater at concentrations of up to 73 million ng/l near a factory in Flanders.

Residents of the surrounding areas have been told not to raise chickens or have crops in their homes. The factory has pledged to stop using chemicals by the end of 2025.

In the Netherlands, an industrial accident has contaminated soils around Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, resulting in extremely high levels of PFOS. Some airports and military sites in Germany have been found to be experiencing similar problems.

In Britain, the highest levels of chemicals were found in the River Wyre, above Blackpool, and came from a factory. River fish were found to contain high levels of these toxic substances.

According to Stockholm University environmental scientist Ian Cousins, areas with readings above 1,000ng/kg should be assessed “urgently” so they can be remediated.

“In highly contaminated areas, local authorities should ensure that PFAS levels are safe in local products. Otherwise if campaigns are needed to discourage the frequent consumption of fish, shellfish, free-range eggs…” said the professor.

“But the chemicals in the groundwater are a big problem because if that groundwater is used in agriculture or as a water source, then they mean you have PFAS in your drinking water and they are very difficult to remove.”

The map shows that Britain’s drinking water sources are contaminated with chemicals, but water companies claim they are not reaching people’s glasses as it is treated.

Health problems even at low concentrations

Figures obtained from water companies and the Environment Agency by the Guardian and Watershed show that since 2006 around 120 samples of drinking water sources have been found to contain concentrations of PFOS or PFOA above the 100ng/l level – the point at which guidelines from the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) state that water companies must take steps to reduce it before supplying it to people’s homes. Until 2009, the DWI guideline limit was much higher, at 3,000ng/l.

Guideline limits for PFAS in drinking water are much lower in the US, where the Environmental Protection Agency has set a health advisory limit of 0.004ng/l for PFOA and 0.02ng/l for PFOS. In Denmark, the Environmental Protection Agency stipulates that drinking water must not contain more than 2ng/l for the sum of the four PFASs.

In drinking water, limits are getting tighter over time as evidence grows about their effects on human health, says Rita Loch-Caruso, a professor of toxicology at the University of Michigan. “We are finding health effects at lower and lower concentrations,” he said.

Chemist and PFAS expert Roger Klein said he believes “the limits for chemicals in Britain are ridiculously high by current international standards” and believes the technique used to dilute the substances in drinking water is flawed as it does not removes completely.

Most rivers polluted by 2039

Although thousands of areas in Europe with high concentrations of chemicals are included in the map, scientists believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Environment Agency has admitted that the chemical PFOS is ubiquitous in the environment and that the presence of PFOS in rivers will mean that many of them will not meet water quality standards by 2039.

In the UK only PFOS and PFOA are regulated. In the EU, there is a proposal to regulate PFAS as a single category, rather than trying to deal with each substance independently. The European Chemicals Agency reports that around 4.4 million tonnes of chemicals will end up in the environment over the next 30 years if action is not taken.

Also for that chemicals it exists in a movie based on true story:

From Participant (Spotlight), DARK WATERS tells the shocking and heroic story of an attorney (Mark Ruffalo) who risks his career and family to uncover a dark secret hidden by one of the world’s largest corporations and to bring justice to a community dangerously exposed for decades to deadly chemicals.

Source: Nation,

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