News and Insights
30 May 2023
Reminder of PFAS/PFOS and where it can be found.
PFAS (Perfluorinated alkylated substances) is part of a group of nearly 12,000 manmade compounds that have been used in many household and commercial products since the 1940s. PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) is part of this group of chemicals.
PFOS was used in the fire-fighting foam used for training at Jersey Airport up until the early 1990s. When this foam was withdrawn, foam with another type of PFAS, called PFHxS, was used until 2020. As a result, water supplies in surrounding locations such as St Ouen’s bay, the Plume area and St Peter have been contaminated.
PFAS are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because once released into the environment, they do not break down. The chemicals are designed to resist water, heat, and oil.
Unfortunately, as a direct result of their use in these products, these toxic chemicals have accumulated and persist within the soil, our water supply, and ultimately have found their way into our bodies. As they are not easily broken down by natural processes (such as sunlight), PFOS simply doesn’t wash away.
Recent updates in Jersey
On 8 February 2022, Islanders who had been affected by the historic use of PFOS were invited to have a blood test for the chemical.
By 15 December 2022, a total of 78 Islanders had been tested. On the same day, those tested were told that 47% (37) of the 78 of the total samples were found to contain one type of PFAS above the threshold, 13% (10) had two types, another 13% (10) had three types, and 8% (6) had four or five types.
By 14 March 2023, of that total of 78 Islanders that were tested, it was confirmed that every one of them was found to have PFAS in their blood, with 80% having at least one type at a high concentration.
By 19 April 2023, a total of 88 Islanders had been tested, and the results indicated that 30% of the people in the Plume area had higher values than 95% of the people tested in US reference pollution for PFOS. This increased to 70% of people tested for another PFAS compound. This other compound was PFHxS.
What is happening next? The PFAS Scientific Panel has been announced
On 6 April 2023, the Public Health department announced the chair and topics to be examined by the Independent PFAS Scientific Advisory Panel, which will advise and make recommendations to the Government of Jersey. Dr Steve Hajioff will chair the panel and report to the Director of Public Health.
During the panel’s term, they will examine the below topics and provide five reports on the same:
- Clinical interventions and trial
To give evidence-based and clinical advice on any treatments or interventions for people with high PFAS levels in their blood serum.
- Assessment of evidence on health impacts of PFAS
To review and present a summary of the evidence around PFAS and physical and psychological health harms.
- PFAS blood testing and re-testing
To provide an informed and expert view regarding the blood re-testing merits for PFAS.
- Environmental management
Identify the most appropriate approaches to environmental management.
- Update on the health and interventions reports
To give updates on reports 1 and 2, the assessment of evidence on health and clinical interventions and trials to be updated at a later stage.
The Government of Jersey states that Dr Hajioff is currently in the process of appointing additional members to sit with him on the panel, and they anticipate this will take approximately one month to do.
What are your legal rights?
To date there have not been any reported claims in Jersey by those who have suffered serious illness because of PFOS, but there is scope for individuals or a group of affected parties to make a claim against the Government of Jersey. To do so, credible independent expert medical advice would be needed as well as paying careful attention to the potential prescription periods.
If you are affected by this situation and would like advice, please contact Viberts Dispute Resolution department. Our dedicated team of dispute resolution lawyers are available to assist you in a way that is not only discreet but will allow us to give you answers to many of your questions.