Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, also known as “PFAS”, are a group of chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in fire-fighting foams. There is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects. However, the release of PFAS into the environment is an emerging concern because these chemicals are highly persistent, and can accumulate in animals and people. As a precaution, human exposure to these chemicals should be minimised while the potential effects of these substances on human health continues to be researched.
The Commonwealth Department of Health announced ‘health based guidance values’, developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), for the three main chemicals of concern in the PFAS group of chemicals. These values are a precautionary measure for use in site investigations in Australia, in particular for conducting human health risk assessments.
For further information about health based guidance values and the Department of Health’s response to PFAS contamination, please visit the following websites:
Commonwealth Department of Health PFAS information
And Voluntary blood testing for PFAS
In addition, the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) has a Guidance Statement.
Literature Review on perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
The Department of Health & Human Services commissioned Monash University to prepare a literature review and report on the potential health effects of perfluoroalkyl compounds:
December 2017 report: Literature review and report on the potential health effects of perfluoroalkyl compounds, mainly Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS)
Oct 2015 report: Literature review on the potential helath effects of Perfluoroalkyl compounds
Nov 2016 report: Literature review on the potential health effects of Perfluoroalkyl compounds
PFAS at the Heart Morass: RAAF Base East Sale investigation and community advice
The Department of Defence is currently investigating three sites in Victoria with potential PFAS contamination, including Bandiana Military Area, HMAS Cerberus and RAAF Base East Sale. The Defence website has further details on these investigations.
PFAS from fire-fighting activities at RAAF Base East Sale have migrated into the Heart Morass located to the south of the base. An interim human health risk assessment has shown elevated PFAS levels in ducks and fish at the Heart Morass. The Environment Protection Authority has issued precautionary public health advice for people to not consume fish, ducks and eels caught from the Heart Morass wetlands, due to these high levels of PFAS. EPA has extended this advice to include the adjacent Dowd Morass wetlands due to duck migration patterns.