Recent measurements commissioned by the provinces of Zeeland, Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland have revealed the presence of PFAS in sea foam along the Dutch coast, as reported by RIVM. It is as yet unclear what the presence of PFAS in sea foam means for human health.

PFAS concentrations comparable to those along Flemish coast

The Dutch measurements follow a study conducted in Flanders on PFAS in sea foam. The results indicate that the PFAS concentrations in Dutch sea foam are similar to those found in seam foam along the Flemish coast.

What is sea foam?

Sea foam results from the decomposition of sea algae or from water pollution, particularly under windy conditions. PFAS tend to accumulate in sea foam, resulting in higher concentrations compared to seawater.

Insufficient information for complete risk assessment

It is as yet unclear what the high concentrations of PFAS in sea foam mean for the health of, for example, swimmers, surfers and beach walkers. The reason is that there is no information available on the amount of sea foam people ingest during various activities in the sea or on the beach. There are no standardised scenarios to determine sea foam exposure, and there are no risk limit values for PFAS in seawater or sea foam. Furthermore, the limited number of available measurements does not yet provide a clear picture of how much PFAS generally occur in sea foam. On two different occasions, the provinces have collected samples of sea foam at, in total, 14 different locations on the Dutch coast. However, there was not always sufficient sea foam present for sampling.

As a result, it is currently not possible to scientifically assess the exposure to PFAS through contact with sea foam. Of course, one can prevent exposure by avoiding contact with sea foam.

PFAS everywhere in our living environment

PFAS occur all throughout our living environment, and this has recently gained more attention both in politics and media, as well as among local residents. Recent RIVM research has shown that a significant portion of the Dutch population already ingests too much PFAS through food and drinking water. Hence, any additional exposure is undesirable.

RIVM is working on a national overview of the various sources of PFAS that people are exposed to, and how much PFAS these contain (see PFAS Research Programme). This will help further clarify what can be done to reduce total PFAS exposure. Furthermore, RIVM also contributes to the proposal for a European ban on PFAS.