Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS are a group of man made chemicals. They are of particular interest in Jersey because of their presence in some borehole water sources. Common members of the PFAS family include PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFHxS (perfluorohexane sulfonate).
PFAS do not occur naturally in the environment. They are manufactured chemicals used in products designed to resist heat, oil, stains and water. PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment because they resist typical environmental degradation processes, as such, they are often referred to as forever chemicals.
They're commonly used in:
- food packaging
- heat resistant non stick cooking surfaces
- insulation of electrical wire
PFAS have historically been used in fire fighting foams. Over time, the chemicals have worked their way through the soil to the surface water streams and groundwater, and have migrated into adjoining areas. Because of the potential for harm to health, and as a precautionary measure, most countries have phased out the use of PFAS in fire fighting foam.
Given that PFAS are in so many common products, it is widely believed internationally that everyone has low levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood.
PFAS in Jersey
Fire fighting foams that contained PFAS chemicals were historically used at Jersey Airport. This occurred before the environmental significance of the chemicals was better understood. Private water supplies (boreholes and wells) in the area now contain PFAS. Following this discovery, sampling and associated remedial work was, and still is being, undertaken by Ports of Jersey and the Government of Jersey.
Officer technical group
In February 2019, an Officer Technical Group was established to oversee a programme of work to understand more about levels of PFAS in water, and what implications these may have. The group meets monthly and includes representatives from Environmental and Consumer Protection, Natural Environment, Public Health and Jersey Water.
Read the Officer Technical Group's Interim Report for 2019
Read the Officer Technical Group's Interim Report for 2020
An investigation into PFAS levels in private water supplies in Jersey began in December 2018. The initial findings and advice for those with private water supplies were presented at public meetings.
A number of recommendations in the Interim Reports focus on understanding the position, movement, future risk and options for clean up of two PFAS plumes in St Ouen's Bay and Pont Marquet areas of Jersey.
A hydrogeological survey of both these areas is being undertaken. Phase 1 represents the assessment of all historic sampling data and identification of future data needs and is now complete.
PFAS Hydrogeological Study Phase 1 report, non-technical summary
PFAS Hydrogeological Study Phase 1 report
12 months of further data collection will begin in 2023. This includes groundwater and surface water sampling in order to create a comprehensive and accurate model of the PFAS plumes.
The Government of Jersey's Natural Environment team has sampled private boreholes and wells across the Island for PFAS alongside existing groundwater monitoring programmes. This will help ensure that the distribution outside of the airport, and any risk posed, is properly understood.
Ports of Jersey is surveying the airport inner perimeter to understand the spread of PFAS. This will inform whether there are any locations that have high levels and whether these are feeding into the St Ouen's Bay and Pont Marquet plumes.
All water testing is done to high standards to avoid cross contamination from the wide range of PFAS sources used in our daily lives. UK laboratories are currently able to test and report on an increasing number of PFAS chemicals. Natural Environment use the latest testing methods to keep at the forefront of this fast developing field.
Testing for PFAS in water requires technical procedures. It is not part of the normal drinking water suite currently undertaken by the States of Jersey Official Analyst.
Islanders who wish to have their private water supplies tested for PFAS should
contact Jersey Water who are offering a chargeable service.
PFAS and health effects
There are no clear associations in the scientific literature between exposure to PFAS and health effects, but there is increasing international concern around this topic. On current evidence, the potential for adverse health effects cannot be ruled out. There is no international agreement about what a 'normal' level of PFAS in the blood is, or what level might be harmful for health. More research is necessary to assess the human health effects of exposure to PFAS.
There is some evidence that suggests that exposure to PFAS can be associated with increased blood cholesterol, although the differences are small and may not be significant to individual level health. Evidence for other associations with other adverse health outcomes are generally limited, but these conditions include:
- higher levels of uric acid in the blood, reduced kidney function or kidney disease or kidney cancer
- testicular cancer
- alterations in immune response, specifically impacts on vaccine derived immunity for diphtheria and rubella
There are also methodological difficulties around determining the health impacts of environmental contaminants because of correlated exposures, the small relative risk of disease attributed to exposure, and the inability to undertake randomised controlled trials. In the case of PFAS, there is also the ubiquitous nature of the chemicals,they're everywhere, meaning that most populations are expected to have some level of PFAS in their blood.
There are currently no approved interventions to reduce the level of PFAS in the blood, although one clinical trial has been carried out in Australia.
It remains good advice for people to avoid significant exposure to PFAS where possible, although complete avoidance of PFAS exposure would be very difficult as the substances are present at low levels in the environment in all societies.
Despite growing international interest in the health consequences of PFAS, it is difficult to interpret the evidence between PFAS and associated health impacts. This is a very specialist and emerging field of knowledge, and so the Government of Jersey is setting up a Scientific Advisory Panel to engage international experts to support the Government in understanding the association between PFAS and health.
Public Health announce independent chair of PFAS Scientific Panel
In 2022, one off blood testing was provided for a group of Islanders who may have been affected by the historic use of PFAS at the airport. The eligibility criteria included living (for one year) or working (for two years) in the plume area, and reporting regularly drinking water from a private supply (such as a borehole or well), and having at least 1 symptom that is consistent with the health concerns that are related to PFAS.
There are some significant challenges with blood testing for PFAS:
- there is no scientific agreement or any standard methodology for interpreting blood results
- there are no internationally agreed clinical limits for 'normal' PFAS levels in blood
- there are a limited number of reference populations worldwide for comparison. We compared Jersey’s results to USA population data, which may have different background levels of PFAS and so may not be an ideal comparator
The results showed that some people had higher levels of PFAS in their blood compared to the reference population in the United States.
Results of blood testing for PFAS chemicals
It was agreed that a panel of international scientific experts should be set up to provide independent advice to the Government of Jersey. This will be set up in 2023 to advise on potential interventions to reduce PFAS in the blood, testing and re testing, and environmental management.
PFAS Scientific Advisory Panel
The PFAS Scientific Advisory Panel is an independent panel. It's made up of external experts recruited from a global pool of specialists in their field.
The panel is chaired by Dr Steve Hajioff who is independent of the government and PFAS research. This is to provide a robust and balanced overview to the work of the panel.
Purpose of the panel
The purpose of the panel is to coordinate and provide expert advice on PFAS issues. This is to enable an effective and evidenced based approach to decision making, enabling a sound and informed response to PFAS matters on the Island.
The responsibilities and tasks of the panel are to:
- agree a programme of work and timeline and deliver the reports as outlined below
- engage affected islanders' knowledge, expertise, and views into the work of the panel
- seek out and engage expert views from other professionals as required
The panel members
The panel is a small group of experts which includes:
- Independent Chair, Dr Steve Hajioff
- Dr Tony Fletcher, PFAS and health expert and epidemiologist
- Professor Ian Cousins, PFAS and environment expert
The Chair is responsible for coordinating the panel.
The members of the panel may also call additional global experts to provide, for example, expert testimonies or clinical advice. Islanders will also be asked to provide expert testimonies to contribute to the evidence base.
Meetings will be held virtually and will be recorded. Affected Islanders are welcome to watch the meeting or the recording afterwards. Minutes of the meeting will also be available.
If you would like to watch the meeting live or request a copy of the recording email
Engagement events for Islanders
Wednesday 11 October 2023, 5.30pm to 7.30pm.
For further information email
Reports and documents
Report launches will be in person, held in the Parish and after 5pm where possible.
The panel will develop the following reports:
- review of therapeutic phlebotomy such as having blood taken to reduce PFAS levels
- assessment of the impact of PFAS exposure on health
- clinical interventions and blood testing and re-testing
- environmental management
- update on the reports covering health and interventions
Drafts and reports
PFAS Newsletter September 2023 issue 2
PFAS Newsletter September 2023
PFAS Newsletter August 2023
PFAS newsletter June 2023
PFAS newsletter May 2023
PFAS newsletter March 2023
PFAS newsletter February 2023
Notes from events
Minutes of PFAS meeting with Islanders on 8 June 2023
Minutes of PFAS meeting with Islanders on 8 December 2022