Pollutant chemical PFOS found in beef from Danish farm

Traces of the chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid or PFOS have been detected in beef from a farming cooperative near Odense, according to a Danish media report.

A file photo showing an area affected by PFOS pollution near Korsør in Denmark.
A file photo showing an area affected by PFOS pollution near Korsør in Denmark. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The substance, a human-made chemical previously used in products such as fabric protectors but now considered a pollutant, was found in sufficient quantities that the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) says it should not be consumed, according to publication Ingeniøren, which broke the story.

High concentrations of PFOS were earlier last year in wastewater from a treatment plant at Korsør on Zealand, and later at a field where cattle had grazed.

That led to high levels of the substance being detected in 118 people who lived in the area.

The issue led to several locations across Denmark, mostly in the vicinity of fire service training locations, undergoing investigations for presence of the chemical.

Levels of PFOS in the meat from the Odense cows are, however, 100 times lower than that detected at Korsør, according to Ingeniøren’s report.

But members of the farming association that owns the grazing land said they want to know whether they have any PFOS in their blood.

“We feel bad about it. We have fortunately not eaten any of this year’s meat and have now thrown it out, but we have had cows on the confirmed PFOS-polluted area since 2018, when we have eaten the meat,” a member of the association’s board, Ulf Løbner-Olesen, told Ingeniøren.

“We now want to know whether we are infected with this, and in such case how much or how little there is,” he added.

The source of the pollution in Odense is uncertain, Ingeniøren writes, although the local water board has suggested potential causes.

Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) is a human-made chemical fluorosurfactant which was used in production of products up until the 1990s but is now considered a pollutant.

The substance is very difficult to break down or dissolve, and has been used in a range of products including rainproof clothing and pizza boxes due to these properties.

However, the same properties make it difficult for humans and animals to break down if they ingest it. It can thereby by build up in the body, which can have long term health consequences.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about PFOS substance and pollution in Denmark

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Denmark presents plan to hire 100 new staff at maternity wards

100 new staff at maternity wards nationally will contribute to improved conditions for new mothers across Denmark, according to a political plan.

Denmark presents plan to hire 100 new staff at maternity wards

The plan was presented by the government and allied parties on the left on Monday. The Alternative and Christian Democratic parties are also in support of the deal. It thereby has an overall parliamentary majority behind it.

The political deal sets aside 80 million kroner over a three-year period to be spent on recruiting and retaining midwives. It will be designed to stop the loss of staff in the sector seen in the Greater Copenhagen region in particular.

It will also give first-time mothers the option of staying in hospitals for up to two days after giving birth, should they choose to do so.

Mothers who choose not to stay at hospitals will have the right to a home visit post-birth.

Currently, mothers in some areas are discharged from hospital shortly after giving birth – within hours in some cases.

The new right for first-time mothers to stay in hospital for two days will come into effect this year, with the parties behind the deal to meet in 2024 with a view to extending it to all births.

The deal aims to improve working conditions for midwives and other maternity ward staff as part of the drive to recruit and retain them. Its practical details will be agreed with Danske Regioner, the representative board for the regional health authorities.

Funding for the investment in neonatal care in Denmark was put aside in the 2022 budget, with the agreement between parties on its spending now finalised.

A total of 475 million kroner will be spent on the area up to 2025.

“Everyone has the right to good care when giving birth and it has long been clear that conditions in the maternity sector must be improved,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said in a ministry statement.

Lis Munk, chairwoman of the Danish Midwives’ Association (Jordemoderforeningen), welcomed the agreement and noted “a recognition that there is not (currently) the number of staff that we need”, but also said that as many as 200 new midwives may be needed. 

“Nowadays, women in labour may well find that there is neither a room nor a midwife for you when you need one,” Munk told news wire Ritzau.

“And then you end up being alone for a large part of the birth,” she said.

Denmark saw considerable debate in 2021 relating to the standard of maternity care in the country, with several cases of mothers and staff describing what they considered below-par conditions. These include reports by broadcaster DR and magazine Femina of Caesarian sections that were necessary because problems during births were not detected early enough, because of a lack of adequate staffing.

Other criticism related to new mothers being discharged from hospitals within hours of giving birth and before they felt ready to leave.