Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

This page contains information regarding Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Page last updated: 27 November 2018

Contents:


Upcoming Community Information Sessions

Williamtown Community Information Session

The Australian Government Department of Health will be holding a community information session to present the findings of the Expert Health Panel for Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) to Williamtown and surrounding communities. Community members in the area are invited to attend.

Details: 5.30pm, Monday, 3 December 2018, Murrook Culture Centre, 2163 Nelson Bay Rd, Williamtown.

Oakey Community Information Session

The Australian Government Department of Health will be holding a community information session to present the findings of the Expert Health Panel for Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) to the Oakey community. Community members in the area are invited to attend.

Details: 5:30pm, Wednesday, 19 December 2018, Oakey Cultural Centre, 62 Campbell Street, Oakey.

For more information on community information sessions, including information on both upcoming and previous sessions, visit the PFAS Contamination - Community Information Sessions web page.


RAAF Base Tindal (Katherine, NT) – Community Support Package

On 3 December 2017, the Australian Government has announced a $5.7 million Community Support Package for people impacted by Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) emanating from the RAAF Base Tindal in Katherine, NT.

As part of this community support package, the Australian Government has extended its voluntary blood testing program, epidemiological study and additional dedicated mental health and counselling services to the investigation area around RAAF Base Tindal.

These services are now available. For more information on how to access these services please see Health initiatives to address PFAS contamination.

On 14 March 2018, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, announced the commencement of the RAAF Base Tindal (Katherine, NT) – Community Support Package. A media release from the Chief Medical Officer is available on the Health media web page.


Expanded Services in Williamtown, NSW

On 19 November 2017, the NSW Environmental Protection Agency announced changes to the Williamtown PFAS Investigation Area, now known as the ‘Management Area’.

Also on 19 November 2017, the Australian Government announced that is has extended its Voluntary Blood Testing Program, epidemiological study and mental health and counselling services to the expanded investigation area around RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW, in line with the Department of Defence’s updated human health risk assessment and the announcement by the NSW Environment Protection Authority. A media release from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Hobbs, is available on the Health media web page.

For more information on how to access these services please see Health initiatives to address PFAS contamination.


Expert Health Panel for PFAS

An Expert Health Panel for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was established to advise the Australian Government on the potential health impacts associated with PFAS exposure and to identify priority areas for further research.

On 7 May 2018, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, released the Expert Health Panel for PFAS Final Report. For more information on the Expert Health Panel for PFAS and its findings, visit the PFAS Expert Health Panel web page.


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, Oakey, Queensland and Katherine, Northern Territory.

These include:


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.


Further Information

For more information please visit the central Australian Government PFAS website: PFAS.gov.au. It provides easy access to information on PFAS for a wide range of interested audiences.

The Department of Health has also established an information service for health related queries about PFAS. If you would like to access this service please call us on 1800 941 180 or email us at health.pfas@health.gov.au.

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.