Since the spring of 2021, when PFAS suddenly emerged high on the agenda for policymakers, citizens, companies and VITO, attention has not strayed from these forever chemicals for a moment. Again in 2023, researchers from VITO focused without interruption on investigating the presence of PFAS in soil, air, water, rest fractions and the human body. Not only the government, but also companies and private individuals have turned to VITO with requests for more research. In addition, there were intense discussions with, among others, the Netherlands and investigations into how PFAS crosses borders.

In January 2023, the VITO report on the presence of PFAS in sea foam was published. A report that yet again proves that PFAS is not only everywhere, but also that more research is required into the way in which PFAS moves in the environment. 

Passing the right message not only to the government but also to citizens is another of VITO's tasks. Our experts were therefore also present at various resident meetings where their research was explained in a very accessible manner. 

Research methods into PFAS have also highlighted another tricky aspect: PFAS is not the only problem. There are also lots of other substances that can cause a health or environmental risk. This is now clear to the government who, since June 2023, have classed PFAS as a substance of very high concern. The concept note ‘vision of substance of very high concern (SVHC)' defines a policy line with actions continuing across the next legislature. 

After two years of crisis activities on PFAS and given that there are still many other SVHCs in our living environment besides PFAS that must be monitored, regulated, authorised and managed, the time is ripe to develop a vision for a SVHC (emission) policy for the long term: a policy targeting the avoidance and prevention of contamination and the cleaning up of the historical liability and, where possible, doing this in an integrated manner across environmental compartments and policy domains.

The Knowledge Center for Innovative Remediation Techniques (KIS vzw) was launched in 2023, entirely in line with this ambition. The Knowledge Center was founded in response to Flanders' ambition to lead the way in the approach and remediation of contamination by SVHC in water, soil and air. This initiative, led by VITO, includes members from the government, the business community and knowledge centres. Leen Bastiaens (VITO) was elected the first KIS manager, alongside Johan Gemoets (VITO) as chair.

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