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Sarah J Simon: Fighting against forever chemicals in Jersey

This story delves into Sarah's tireless efforts to uncover the truth behind the contamination that plagues the island and her unyielding campaign for a cleaner, safer Jersey. Photographs by Oliver Doran


In the quaint parish of St. Ouen resides Sarah Jane Simon, an impassioned activist whose home is not only a sanctuary for her, but also the 75+ ducks and birds she cares for. Her commitment to animal welfare and her unique living situation paints a colourful picture of compassion and dedication. Sarah is a staunch advocate in the fight against PFAS contamination. With her unwavering dedication, she tirelessly campaigns for stricter regulations and greater awareness of the harmful effects of PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), commonly known as 'forever chemicals', on both the environment and public health.

"We’ve seen young children With severe illnesses, all Living in the shadow of contaminated sites."


Sarah, for those unfamiliar, could you explain what PFAS chemicals are and why they’re often referred to as 'forever chemicals'?

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals used in various industries around the world, especially in aqueous firefighting foams. They're called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment—or in our bodies. This longevity means they bio accumulate over time, leading to significant health risks. Initially the health consequences of ingesting forever chemicals were covered up by the manufacturers of AFFF - the movie Dark Waters portrays the story of Rob Billott's fight against the chemical manufacturers responsible and uncovers the truth.


What prompted you to investigate the link between these chemicals and the health issues in Jersey?

I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, vitiligo in the year 2000. At this time, my family didn't know forever chemicals were present in our drinking water supply. By the year 2015, me and my family members were all sick with varying diseases, kidney, liver, thyroid, nerve etc. it didn't make sense. This prompted me to talk to neighbours in my area and I connected the dots back to PFAS in our water supply. This realisation that our suffering could have a preventable cause was my call to action.

 How long has this been going on for in Jersey?

Aqueous Firefighting Foam (AFFF) has been used in Jersey since the 1970's. For five decades firefighting foams containing various forever chemicals have been allowed to permeate Jersey's natural water supplies without any remediation whatsoever. St Ouen's Bay is known as the 'Plume Area' as it is located under the airports fire training ground, where run-off was not contained for decades. In 2004 the Government of Jersey knew there was a risk of PFAS causing bladder cancer. They failed to monitor the health of all residents living in the known plume area and in my opinion, they are still failing to protect the islanders from forever chemicals. The island needs an updated water plant to remove PFAS from the environment and its waterways.


Can you describe some of the health effects that you and your neighbours have experienced?

Absolutely. In our community, there’s been an alarming rate of kidney stones, cancers, thyroid and autoimmune diseases. We’ve seen young children with severe illnesses, all living in the shadow of contaminated sites. It’s heartbreaking and completely unacceptable.



"I hope for a future where our environment is no longer an afterthought in industrial operations. "


What steps have you taken to engage the government and public on this issue?

I’ve compiled extensive research, conducted community blood tests to prove PFAS exposure, and organized public meetings to raise awareness. Despite the bureaucratic hurdles, we're gaining traction and making our voices heard.


How can people help in your fight for a cleaner, safer environment?

Support our cause by staying informed, sharing information, and pressing policymakers for change. We also need people to advocate for stricter regulations on industrial pollutants and better environmental practices, particularly where Jersey Water is concerned. For forty years our local environmental agency has known just how polluted groundwater is here in Jersey, it isn't just forever chemicals, there are countless pesticides, fertilisers and other dangerous chemicals out there causing cancers.

 What immediate steps can individuals take to protect themselves from PFAS exposure?

Be cautious about your water sources; invest in high-quality water filters if possible. Also, consider the origin of your food, particularly seafood, as PFAS can accumulate in fish and shellfish.


What are your hopes for the future of Jersey's environmental policies?

I hope for a future where our environment is no longer an afterthought in industrial operations. We need policies that prioritise public health and safety, ensuring clean water and a toxic-free environment for all. Most urgently needed are water plantations that seriously reduce the chemicals found in Jersey Water.


What would you say to someone who wants to get involved in environmental activism?

Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. Every small action contributes to larger change. Never underestimate the power of an informed and engaged community.


Sarah's story is not just one of struggle but a beacon of activism that illuminates the path to change. She has written 5 reports, highlighting how the environment across Jersey has become polluted and ultimately affected the health of many islanders.

If you'd like to read the reports please email Sarah



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