Following the release of a concerning report by the RIVM, the Dutch government has announced a series of measures designed to reduce the amount of perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAs) in drinking water in the Netherlands

What are PFAs and are they dangerous? 

The European Environment Agency defines PFAs as a group of over 4.700 manmade chemicals that accumulate in the environment and in humans. They can be found in the air, soil and water, but also in an increasing amount of food and in drinking water. PFAs are known as forever chemicals, as they are extremely persistent and difficult to remove from the environment. 

They can also have a number of adverse effects on the environment and human health, potentially leading to various health issues including liver damage, thyroid disease, obesity, fertility issues and cancer. 

RIVM report raises concerns about PFA levels in drinking water

A recent report published by the RIVM advised that, while the levels of PFAs in Dutch drinking water were below the recommended limit, the government should work on reducing these amounts, especially because humans also ingest a high amount of PFAs through other sources.

The RIVM found that in around half of the measurements taken from drinking water sourced from rivers, the PFA levels were above the advisable level of 4,4 nanograms per litre. The same went for 10 percent of the measurements for groundwater. 

While the RIVM emphasised that drinking tap water in the Netherlands was still safe, it said, “Lowering this concentration is necessary to ensure that the proportion of PFAS that people ingest through drinking water does not become too large.”

Dutch government working to limit the Netherlands’ exposure to PFAs

In response to the findings in the report, the Dutch government has unveiled plans to significantly reduce the levels of PFAs in drinking water. “Clean and sufficient drinking water is a priority for me, I think it is very important that we can continue to drink tap water everywhere in the Netherlands,” Mark Harbers, the state secretary for infrastructure and water management, explained. 

The government’s measures include examining the permits for the disposal of wastewater, and adjusting or tightening them where necessary to ensure that a maximum of 4,4 nanograms per litre is measured at the location where drinking water is extracted from the river. The government believes the solution is to reduce pollution in rivers, instead of attempting to remove PFAs from drinking water.

Harbers and Health Minister Ernst Kuipers also intend to commission the RIVM to further investigate the ways in which humans ingest PFAs and propose measures to reduce exposure to PFAs in the Netherlands.

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