Drinking water contaminated with highly fluorinated chemicals (PFAS) flowed from the taps. Today, Blekinge District Court will announce whether the municipal water company in Ronneby is obliged to pay damages.
– We believe that there is an actual damage already in that we know that we have these toxins in the body and do not get rid of them, says Herman Afzelius, chairman of the PFAS association.
Day after day, several thousand residents in Kallinge drank contaminated drinking water. The culprit in the drama was the fire foam that was used for many years when the F17 air flotilla practiced firefighting. Chemicals seeped into the groundwater and to the water source where the Kallinge residents’ water was collected, until the waterworks in Brantafors was shut down when the scandal was discovered in 2013.
165 residents have voted
A total of 165 residents have sued Ronneby’s municipal water company Miljöteknik, but without specifying any claims for damages in kronor and ören. Today’s judgment only clarifies whether there is a liability for damages or not.
The municipality has denied liability for damages and both parties consider themselves to find support for their case in both Swedish and international research.
“What is right and wrong”
– It is not about money, but more about what is right and wrong. Is it right that someone can send out dangerous chemicals for a long time and then evade responsibility? says Herman Afzelius.
If the court concludes that the company has liability for damages, he hopes for future settlements with the company through conciliation.
– In the long term, it is important to know who will be responsible if someone becomes ill tomorrow, in three years or in 20 years, says Afzelius.
PFAS (poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances) do not occur naturally, but began to be produced on a larger scale in the 1950s.
PFAS is a collective name for approximately 4,700 different industrially produced substances with a similar structure and partly common properties.
PFASs contain fluorine atoms in specific places and the molecules are characterized by having a water-soluble and a fat-soluble side. This gives them special surface properties, which are used, for example, to make durable bubbles in fire foam, good glide in the ski wall and water-repellent impregnation for textiles and floors.
Other uses are coating in frying pans and in certain types of food packaging, for example for burgers, popcorn and on sandwich paper.
PFASs are very persistent compounds, which break down extremely slowly. Once they have ended up in nature, they remain. Therefore, they are a difficult problem in, for example, water sources.
Within the EU, the use of the PFAS substance PFOS has been banned since 2008 and the use of the substance PFOA has been banned since 2020.
In September last year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) developed new health-based limit values for the PFAS family and they will be implemented in Sweden within two years.
Sources: Nationalencyklopedin and Livsmedelsverket
Facts: Negative effects on health
PFAS has several negative effects on health. For example, kidneys, liver and cholesterol levels are affected. There are also studies that show that PFAS inhibits the body’s immune system, which increases the risk of infections and results in a weakened immune response to vaccinations. In addition, PFAS is linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
Researchers at Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AMM) in Lund and Gothenburg have for several years studied PFAS and health risks in the population in Ronneby municipality.
Studies there show that overall there is no increased risk of cancer, but that there are moderately increased risks of rare cancers such as testicular and kidney cancer.
AMM research also shows a moderately increased risk of the disease polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a benign gynecological disease that can make it difficult for women to become pregnant.
Fetuses, infants and children appear to be particularly sensitive to PFAS. The substances can be transferred via the placenta and via breastfeeding.
However, the Ronneby studies do not show an increased incidence of pregnancy poisoning, thyroid disease or inflammatory bowel disease, as had been seen in a large American study.
Sources: Nationalencyklopedin, Livsmedelsverket and AMM