World's largest 'forever chemical' pollution found in Belgium

A research project carried out by several media, including Le Monde and The Guardian, has shown that per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), used in manufacturing chemicals, are found in more than 17,000 places in Europe. These non-degradable pollutants are also present in Belgium at levels that threaten public health.

Although levels as low as 10 nanograms per litre of the chemical substance are considered too high, the study highlighted 300 sites with more than 10,000 nanograms per litre. Many of these sites are not only in Belgium. It is also the country with the highest concentration of chemicals.

Exposure to high levels of PFAS can affect the immune system and lead to the hardening of the arteries, increased cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease.

The fact that so many forever chemicals are circulating in Belgian soil is due to the American multinational 3M's Zwijndrecht site, which was at the centre of a pollution scandal last year. 3M has agreed to stop producing PFAS in Zwijndrecht by 2025 and to spend 571 million euros on cleaning up the site and its surrounding area.

In December last year, the EU adopted its strategy on persistent chemicals, which aims to ban the use of PFAS where their use is essential. Five European countries (the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway) launched a campaign to ban PFAS in Europe in early February.


Aerial drone picture shows the site of the 3M plant in Zwijndrecht, Thursday 10 June 2021.



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