Australian guidance values for assessing exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

The outcomes of a review by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), Perfluorinated Chemicals in Food, to determine the recommended tolerable daily intake values (TDI) for people potentially exposed to the contaminants collectively known as perfluoroalkyated (PFAS) substances, was released by the Australian Government on 3 April 2017.

Page last updated: 03 April 2017

PDF printable version of Australian guidance values for assessing exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (PDF 328 KB)
3 April 2017

The outcomes of a review by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), Perfluorinated Chemicals in Food, to determine the recommended tolerable daily intake values (TDI) for people potentially exposed to the contaminants collectively known as perfluoroalkyated (PFAS) substances, has been released by the Australian government today.

PFAS have been used since the 1950s in industrial processes, in a range of common household products, and some types of firefighting foams. Their use in firefighting foams has raised some environmental concerns in Australia as PFAS have contaminated sites where the foams have been used.

In June 2016, enHealth reviewed overseas approaches to setting health based guideline values for PFAS in drinking water and recreational water and recommended interim values based on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guidance. These values were subsequently confirmed as being appropriate and protective of public health following a review conducted by Professor Andrew Bartholomaeus in August 2016.

In June 2016, the Federal Department of Health engaged FSANZ to develop final health-based guidance values, to replace the interim values adopted by enHealth, to assist Australian regulatory authorities to assess the human health risks of site contamination.

FSANZ’s assessment, which has been endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and reviewed by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Committee (AHMAC), used a pharmacokinetic modelling approach and parameters most appropriate to the Australian context.

In its report FSANZ has recommended new TDIs for use in site investigations in Australia that are lower than the interim values adopted by enHealth.

A TDI is the amount of a chemical in food or drinking water that can be ingested on a daily basis over a life-time without appreciable risk to the consumer.

The new recommended Australian values are closer to the US EPA values although the modelling approach used by FSANZ to derive the value was not the same as that used by the US EPA. FSANZ derived these values independently and its report was peer reviewed by international experts.

FSANZ has recommended values that allow for a large margin of safety and are appropriate and protective of public health.

The new TDIs will be for use in investigating sites contaminated with PFAS. This will ensure a consistent approach across sites, in particular, when undertaking human health risk assessments.

It is important to note that these new TDIs are precautionary measures given that there is no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects.

FSANZ has also conducted a dietary exposure assessment which includes guidance to assist investigating agencies and state and territory governments, in developing advice on food consumption in contaminated areas.

Additionally, FSANZ has not recommended any food regulatory measures at this stage.

The Australian Government recognises that the uncertainty around exposure to PFAS is causing stress and anxiety in affected communities, and is committed to addressing communities’ concerns.

The Department of Health is funding a number of programs to complement activities of state and territory health departments, as follows:

    • Additional dedicated mental health and counselling services are being provided in recognition of the stress that this issue has caused in the Williamtown and Oakey communities.
    • A Voluntary Blood Testing Program is providing access to PFAS blood testing to those affected by contamination in Williamtown and Oakey, including access to pre- and post-test counselling by a general practitioner. It should be noted, however, that blood testing is not diagnostic, prognostic or useful to inform patient management. The monitoring of pooled community samples over time may help determine the success of exposure reduction measures.
    • An epidemiological study, focussing on the Williamtown and Oakey communities, is being undertaken by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University. This will build our understanding of the risks arising from exposure to these chemicals.
MEDIA ALERT:
The Australian Government, including the Department of Health and the Department of Defence, will be holding community walk in sessions in Oakey on 5 April and Williamtown on 6 April to explain the new TDIs, provide advice to the communities on what these values mean; and ensure that people have an opportunity to ask questions and seek further information.

Should members of the public have any questions or concerns related to PFAS and health, the HBGVs and other Health-led initiatives, such as the Voluntary Blood Testing Program and the Epidemiological Study they should email the Department of Health on health.pfas@health.gov.au.

Visit www.health.gov.au/PFAS for more information.

Media contact: news@health.gov.au Phone: 0412 132 585

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