Persistent chemical pollutants stay in the blood

Exposure to chemical pollution in daily life is not easy to escape today. It's not to scare you, it's just that this is demonstrated by the results of the blood tests that various European politicians from ten different countries who work in Union institutions have undergone. All of them have toxic substances in their blood that are potentially harmful to health and have a disturbing characteristic: they are persistent and remain in the body for so long that they are known as 'eternal toxins'. They are PFAS

Three vice-presidents of the Commission, the Commissioner for the Environment, the director of the European Environment Agency and several MEPs, including the Spanish Cesar Luena, vice-president of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament, and Miguel Urbán, have lent themselves voluntarily to the analysis of their blood, in an action promoted by the European Environment Office (EEB, for its acronym in English).

Analytics to raise awareness

The objective of the initiative, in which organizations such as Ecologistas en Acción and Hogar sin Tóxicos have collaborated, was to raise awareness among political leaders and the population about the importance of the problem of chemical pollution and to give it visibility to the institutions themselves, and its results. They met this week.

The analyzes conclude that policy makers and MEPs record quantities of pollutants similar to those of the average European population, although five of them exceeded the reference levels considered safe.

These results “show the ability of these 'eternal toxins' to persist in the body,” says Kistiñe García, from the Toxic Substances group of Ecologistas en Acción. For example, Cesar Luena's analysis revealed that the most abundant toxic substance in his blood is PFOS, the first to be marketed and which was banned years ago. For this reason, says Tatiana Santos, head of Chemical Policy at the EEB, that “these analyzes confront political leaders with harsh reality.”

Deficiencies in regulations

For the promoters of this initiative, “the REACH Regulation, the European regulation on chemical substances, contains serious deficiencies that have allowed these levels of contamination with countless chemical substances.” What's more, Carlos de Prada, head of Home without Toxics, does not doubt that “we are facing a serious public health problem and European policy is not serving to prevent us from becoming contaminated with substances as dangerous as these.”

Indeed, although five member states proposed a global ban on numerous PFAS a year ago, the process may take years until these dangerous chemicals are phased out throughout Europe, if not ultimately thwarted. Hence, Tatiana Santos draws attention to the importance of “the next Commission officials after the next European elections resuming the due reform of the REACH Regulation, delayed by industrial pressures on the European Commission.”

Scientific agreement

Indeed, science associates exposure to these substances, even at low concentrations, with multiple health problems, such as cancer, liver damage, high cholesterol or neurological development problems, as well as adverse effects on reproduction, the thyroid or the brain. immune system, among others. The health costs associated with PFAS, according to a study by the Nordic Council, are between 52 and 84 billion euros annually in the Union as a whole.

But what are PFAS?

FPAS (per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances) are one of the most widely used families of synthetic chemicals currently in various industries. Due to its stability at high temperatures, ability to act as grease or water repellents, paints, insecticides, etc., according to informative documents from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Transition (MITECO). They are present in a multitude of commonly used objects and products: non-stick pans, hygiene and beauty products, insecticides, mobile phone components, etc., but also in the air, household dust and drinking water can be a source of exposure. Which explains how extensive contamination from them can be.

Can exposure to these chemical pollutants be reduced?

Yes. For example, choosing PFAS-free cookware, eating less food packaged in grease-resistant paper or cardboard; trying to choose clothing and textiles whose label indicates, for example, PFAS-free or fluoride-free; or checking that there are no 'fluoros' or PFTE among the ingredients of cosmetics and hygiene products.