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3M chemical company illegally discharges a toxic substance in Scheldt |  Instagram news VTM

3M chemical company illegally discharges a toxic substance in Scheldt | Instagram news VTM

It appears that 3M Chemical, which has been under heavy fire for a few months due to PFOS contamination, is now illegally dumping another toxin into the Scheldt. This is evident from the research conducted by VTM Nieuws and Het Laatste Nieuws. It has to do with FBSA, a substance that accumulates in the lungs. 3M discharges its wastewater into nature, but does not have a permit at all.

Jonas Muellert

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Since 2002, chemical giant 3M has stopped producing PFOS, a toxic substance that has been shown to accumulate in the human body and is described as “extremely dangerous.” Since then, 3M has continued to produce other hazardous materials. Permission to discharge Scheldt’s wastewater, but an internal memo from the Flemish Ministry of Welfare and Health, which the editors of VTM Nieuws and Het Laatste Nieuws can see, now shows that 3M produces another toxin: FBSA. The department also confirms that it received this information from 3M. But 3M has never applied for a permit to the FBSA, even though it is illegally discharging Scheldt’s sewage. Since 3M has never indicated that it will release the material, the Flemish government does not agree. So it has been able to discharge toxic wastewater undisturbed for years.

Also in the United States

Incidentally, this is not the first time that 3M has illegally discharged FBSA into the river. In 2019, the company also had to admit that it had illegally dumped FBSA into the Tennessee River at its production site in Decatur, United States. Then 3M was forced to stop production and pay $35 million (30 million euros) to local authorities. It seems very likely that the site at Zwijndrecht wanted to keep its role under the radar.

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Luk Lemmens, the commissioner in charge for the province of Antwerp, says 3M does not actually have an offloading permit: “3M can only offload what is allowed in the offload standards. FBSA is not currently included in the offload standards. Nor has 3M requested it.”

Ban on PFAS?

In the meantime, experts are very concerned about what is being produced at the Zwijndrecht plant. According to cancer expert Prof. Nik Van Larebeke (UGent, VUB), FBSA is very similar to a substance that can be associated with respiratory infections in children under the age of five and a decrease in their antibodies and cardiovascular disease in adults.

So Van Larebeke calls for 3M production to be halted before the health hazards of the products can be determined. On the other hand, other experts want a general ban on all PFAS substances in Europe.

3M was contacted daily for a response for an entire week, but declined to comment.