Six questions (and answers) about PFAS in eggs from hobby chickens

NOS News

1. Is it still safe to eat eggs from my own chicken?

We do not know that. The eggs from hobby chicken farmers that NOS had tested contained eggs in which no PFAS was found at all and which you can therefore eat. But there were also eggs with greatly increased PFAS values ​​that, according to experts, you should not eat or eat very little of.

In the most extreme case, eggs contained three times more PFOS, a form of PFAS, than allowed according to the EU standard. That amounts to 150 nanograms of PFOS. An adult weighing 70 kilos may consume a maximum of 300 nanograms of PFOS per week. This means that an adult already meets the maximum weekly amount with two of those eggs, while you also ingest PFAS through, for example, drinking water and fish.

In the Dordrecht region, the RIVM now advises against eating eggs from hobby chickens, due to the high PFOS content. There is no such warning in the rest of the country, but experts consulted by NOS say: until there is more clarity about the extent of the problem, it is better for adults to eat no more than two hobby chicken eggs per week.

2. What about eggs from the supermarket?

A carton of eggs from the store is safe, according to the RIVM and the NVWA. The NVWA checks whether commercial eggs comply with the rules by testing them for PFAS. This happened 41 times last year, at various poultry farms. Those 41 samples were safe: the PFAS standard was not exceeded.

Trade organization Avined reports that it has conducted research into 90 poultry locations. No PFAS levels above the European standard were found in eggs from those locations either.

It is not entirely clear why eggs from hobby chickens contain PFAS and commercial eggs do not. It could be explained by the fact that hobby chickens are fed different food than chickens from chicken farmers. Scientists and Avined also point out that there was a cage requirement for chicken farmers for almost the entirety of last year. As a result, the chickens that lay free-range eggs were hardly allowed outside. The obligation to keep in a cage still applies. Avined says that the eggs will then be closely monitored to see if anything changes in the PFAS values ​​in eggs.

3. What is the risk for children?

Ingesting PFAS is more dangerous for children. The substances affect the immune system and this affects, for example, the effectiveness of vaccines. PFAS expert Jacob de Boer mentions the vaccination against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio: “If you ingest too much PFAS, it will work less well. And we all already have PFAS in our bodies, so an egg makes it easy.” actually even higher.”

And because the maximum amount of PFAS depends on body weight, children should have less. You may consume a maximum of 4.4 nanograms of PFAS per kilo of body weight per week. This means that children aged 4, who weigh an average of 17 kilos, may consume a maximum of about 75 nanograms per week. In the case of the eggs from Maartensdijk that NOS had tested, a child can already eat half an egg. And on top of that, PFAS, which a child already ingests through drinking water, packaging and fish, is added.

4. PFAS is also carcinogenic, right? Why isn’t it about that now?

Some PFAS types can be carcinogenic. Exposure to these types of PFAS can, for example, cause kidney or testicular cancer, says PFAS expert Jacob de Boer. “But then you’re talking about a completely different level.” This concerns a thousand to ten thousand times more PFAS than is contained in the tested eggs, says De Boer. “This concerns workers in factories, people who may live very close to them. People who may have a hundred times more PFAS in their blood.”

5. I have chickens in the garden. Can I have my eggs tested?

No. There are companies in the Netherlands that test eggs for PFAS, but they only do this for companies, not for private individuals, as can be read on the website of GGD Zuid-Holland Zuid. PFAS expert Chiel Jonker (University of Utrecht) can imagine that people with chickens want to know where they stand. “This also applies to PFAS in swimming pools or seawater, for example. If you know it, you can adapt your behavior and no longer swim there. It is the same with eggs.”

Jonker recommends not eating too many eggs from your own chickens until the extent of the problem with PFAS in such eggs has been properly investigated.

6. What don’t we know?

There are also still many questions unanswered. For example, how widespread the PFAS problem is. According to experts, the fact that PFAS has now been found in hobby chicken eggs at various locations in the country is an indication that the problem is more widespread, but it is not yet possible to say how widely.

It is also still unclear how the PFAS could end up in the eggs of hobby chickens. For the time being, the cause remains a guess, even for experts. They call for more research to find out where the contamination comes from.

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