The Cancer Registry Foundation calculated the occurrence of all cancers together, including breast, prostate, testicular, kidney and bladder cancers, in the region of 3 and 5 kilometers around the site of chemical company 3M in Zwijndrecht, compared to the whole of Flanders. The area studied includes parts of Zwijndrecht, Beveren, Antwerp and Kruibeke. The age structure in the population was taken into account and the figures for men and women were analyzed separately. The comparison with Flanders was made for the period 2008-2020 as well as for 2016-2020.
The comparison shows that neither cancers that could possibly be associated with exposure to PFAS, nor all cancers together, were more common in the area around 3M than in the whole of Flanders. Some cancers were even less common. It is emphasized that cancer usually arises from the interaction of different factors and that this study therefore does not allow any statements about the possible link between PFAS and cancer.
There is no comparable register for other diseases and disorders and therefore no comparison can be made, it still sounds. Flemish PFAS commission holder Karl Vrancken also points out in an initial response that further research will be needed to map out health effects other than cancer. “PFAS has been linked to several other health effects such as elevated cholesterol, thyroid disruption, decreased birth weight, and immunity disruption,” he says.
“Those health effects were not addressed in this study. Additional research may provide more data on the correlations between PFAS and other conditions. In the meantime, it is good to note that cancers in the region around 3M are no more common than elsewhere in Flanders.”
In the meantime, the Flemish government, through the minister of Welfare, Public Health and Family Hilde Crevits (CD&V), states that such additional research is on the way. This will be done, among other things, by taking blood samples and linking data with records of general practitioners in the zone in question. “The link between the environment and health is a complex issue and deserves further research,” says Crevits. “Such research is very important in order to be able to take the right health measures.”
In the meantime, the Agency for Care and Health continues to monitor the cancer incidence figures.