Polluted with PFOA

Settsu City Council Unanimously Passed a Petition Requesting the Government to Conduct a PFOA Contamination Health Survey

2023.05.17 11:04 Nanami Nakagawa

On March 28, 2023, the Osaka Prefectural Settsu City Council unanimously passed a petition requesting the government to investigate the health effects of pollution in response to the detection of the highest concentration of PFOA in Japan around the Yodogawa Plant of Daikin Industries.

Since 2020, a total of 34 residents in Settsu City have undergone blood tests by a research team from Kyoto University. In light of the indicators of guidance on PFOA exposure announced in the United States in 2022, high concentrations of PFOA were detected in 33 of the 34 people whom Tansa was able to confirm through investigation. The City Council decided that a broader epidemiological survey of the entire contaminated area was needed due to growing concerns among residents.

Regarding PFOA contamination in the United States, an epidemiological survey of 70,000 people began in 2005, and in 2012 it proved a causal relationship between PFOA exposure and six diseases, including cancer and thyroid disease. In Settsu City, which became the most polluted area in Japan, the movement demanding to study the effects on health has finally started after 18 years of delay.

City Council makes a yet another request to the unresponsive Government

The four lawmakers who submitted a draft petition at the meeting were Hideaki Murakami of Komei Party, Takashi Tsukamoto of the Osaka Restoration Party, Kaoru Ando of the Japanese Communist Party, and Akihiko Matsumoto of the Liberal Democratic Party. All 18 members, excluding the chairman, voted in favor of this.

A year ago, on March 29, 2022, the Settsu City Council passed a petition asking the government to verify the effects of PFOA contamination on the human body, such as carcinogenicity and the birth of low birth weight babies. This time, too, it was unanimous.

However, since the government did nothing to verify the effects on the human body, the petition was approved again unanimously. In this petition, the City Council requested the following with strong language:

“We strongly request the government to promptly establish health standards for PFOA and other substances, and to promptly implement health impact surveys and epidemiological studies in areas with high levels of contamination.”

DuPont funded research in the United States

The history of PFOA contamination in the United States is a major reason why Settsu residents are becoming more and more anxious.

In the United States, DuPont leaked PFOA from a factory in Alabama, causing high levels of pollution. Residents near the exposed factory filed a lawsuit against DuPont. In 2004, DuPont settled the dispute by paying the residents $70 million.

At the time of the settlement, it was decided to conduct an epidemiological survey of 70,000 people. The $5 million cost was covered by DuPont, and the research was carried out by a panel of independent scientists.

Seven years of research have confirmed its impact on six diseases, including testicular cancer, renal cell cancer, and thyroid disease.

After an epidemiological survey of 70,000 people and subsequent research, the United States has announced the level of concentration of PFOA exposure that requires treatment. “Guidance on PFAS Exposure, Testing, and Clinical Follow-up” published in July 2022 (National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine). According to the guidance, people with blood levels of 2 ng/ml or more should be in treatment.

Of the 34 people who underwent a blood test by the Kyoto University team in Settsu, 33 people whose numbers were confirmed by Tansa exceeded this concentration.

Daikin, unconcerned spectator, at a private meeting

While the Settsu City Council has called on the government to conduct a health survey, Daikin still refuses to admit that its Yodogawa Plant is causing Settsu City the number one PFOA pollution in the country.

However, they are aware of the developments in the United States, and also aware that Settsu residents are worried that PFOA may cause health problems just like the residents of the United States.

In December 2018, a lawsuit in the United States became a hot topic at a closed-door conference held by Daikin, Settsu City, and Osaka Prefecture. An official of Settsu City asked about the points at issue in the lawsuit. A Daikin representative replied:

“One could get sick when it enters the body. For the residents, it was unforgivable that such substances could enter their bodies in the first place. The lawsuit against DuPont acknowledged that there was a relationship between PFOA and medical history (kidneys, etc.). Manufacturers such as 3M and Chemours are being sued.”

Settsu City Hall

(Originally published in Japanese on March 28, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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