sea foam


The Dutch government has issued a warning against the ingestion of seaside foam by children and pets following a study revealing the concentration of “forever chemicals” in the foam.

The study, prompted by research at the Belgian seaside showing high concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in foam, measured the coast in Zeeland, north and south Holland in April and August.

The Dutch public health institute RIVM found comparable levels of PFAS in sea foam at popular Dutch resorts, including Egmond, Katwijk, Scheveningen, Texel, and Zandvoort, when compared to the Belgian samples.

PFAS, synthetic chemicals known for their waterproofing qualities, have been associated with toxic effects on the human immune system, certain cancers, fertility issues, and risks for wildlife.

“It is sensible to have a shower after swimming, wash your hands before eating, and not to let children and pets swallow any sea foam,” said the minister of water management, Mark Harbers, in a parliamentary briefing on Tuesday. “The RIVM has previously established that people in the Netherlands are already too exposed to PFAS. A large amount comes from food and drinking water. Every route through which people ingest more PFAS is undesirable, including via sea foam.”

He said no measures were needed regarding sea swimming since levels in the water were “a lot lower”.

The presence of these chemicals in foam raises concerns, although it remains unclear what this means for the health of individuals engaged in sea-related activities. The RIVM emphasised that sea swimming is not a cause for concern as PFAS levels in the water are considerably lower.

According to the Dutch study, which measured foam where available, “just as much if not more PFAS occur in Dutch sea foam as have been measured in Flemish sea foam, with the exception of one sample from Knokke in which very high PFAS concentrations were found”.

PFAS are widely used in various products, ranging from waterproof clothing and cosmetics to firefighting foam and packaging materials. While some PFAS are banned, their resistance to degradation poses environmental challenges.

Recently, 17 of England’s 18 water companies detected PFAS in drinking water sources, with some exceeding recommended limits.

The Dutch government had already tightened drinking water limits for PFAS last year due to their perceived increased health risks.

Flanders advises against playing in sea foam, ingesting it, and recommends washing after a day at the beach.

The European Union is contemplating extensive restrictions on PFAS, recognising the potential environmental and health hazards associated with these persistent chemicals.



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