Health initiatives to address PFAS contamination
The Australian Government has committed to a number of health initiatives to assist the communities affected by PFAS contamination, in particular at Williamtown, New South Wales, and Oakey, Queensland.
Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, also known as “PFAS”, are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in the manufacture of non-stick cookware; fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications; food packaging; some industrial processes; and in some types of fire-fighting foams. There are many types of PFAS, with the best known examples being perfluorooctane sulfonate, known as “PFOS”, and perfluorooctanoic acid, known as “PFOA” and perfluorohexane sulfonate, known as PFHxS.
More recently, PFAS have been found to have contaminated sites where there has been historic use of fire-fighting foams that contained PFAS. Over time, these chemicals have worked their way through the soil to contaminate surface and ground water, and have migrated into adjoining land areas. The release of PFAS into the environment is an emerging concern, because these chemicals are highly persistent, have been shown to be toxic to fish and some animals, and can accumulate in the bodies of fish, animals and people who come into contact with them. However, there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects.
Further information is available in the following Factsheet:
Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) Guidance
The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth), which is a subcommittee of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), has developed guidance for state and territory public health units for use in assessing any public health risks where PFAS have been released into the environment. enHealth has also developed a factsheet with general information for the public about these three types of fluorinated chemicals. Both this guidance and the factsheet were endorsed AHPPC and are available at Environmental health publications.
Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) Statement
The Food Regulation Standing Committee has published a statement regarding PFAS and the general food supply. This statement is available on the Food Regulation website.
Community Walk-In Sessions
As part of the whole of government response to PFAS contamination, the Department of Health is engaging face-to-face with affected communities through community walk-in sessions.
For more information on community walk-in sessions, including information on both upcoming and previous sessions, visit the PFAS Contamination - Community Walk-In Sessions web page.
If you would like further information on the Department of Defence’s PFAS Investigation and Management Program, please visit the Department of Defence's website or contact the Department of Defence on 1800 365 414 or at PFASDefenceCoordination@golder.com.au
State and territory regulatory authorities have taken action to reduce the environmental and public health risks at sites where there is confirmed contamination with these chemicals. If you would like further information on what is happening in your State or Territory please visit the websites of your state or territory health department and environment protection agency.