Foam and mis­for­tune

TAK­ING ON TOXIC LEGACY OF CHEM­I­CAL

Avon Valley Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Sarah Brookes

COM­MU­NI­TIES bat­tling con­tam­i­na­tion from toxic chem­i­cals leaked from Aus­tralian De­fence Force and com­mer­cial sites have banded to­gether to high­light what they say is a grow­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal and health cri­sis across Aus­tralia.

The Coali­tion Against PFAS ( CAP) has launched a web­site to ad­vo­cate for dozens of com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by the use of per­flu­o­roalkyl and polyflu­o­roalkyl sub­stances ( PFAS), which were used to fight fires and for train­ing from the 1970s to the mid- 2000s.

In Perth, the toxic fire­fight­ing foams have been de­tected on at least 13 sites in­clud­ing in For­rest­field, Bi­bra Lake, North Fre­man­tle and Belle­vue.

CAP pres­i­dent Lind­say Clout said there were at least 90 con­tam­i­nated ar­eas across Aus­tralia.

“While the United States has de­clared clean­ing up PFAS con­tam­i­na­tion a na­tional pri­or­ity and Euro- pean coun­tries move to­wards stat­ing there is no safe level of ex­po­sure, our Gov­ern­ment has sat on its hands,” he said.

“Given Wil­liamtown in NSW and Oakey in Queens­land are among the first con­firmed con­tam­i­nated sites, so of­ten we are the first point of con­tact for young mothers, the el­derly and other com­mu­nity mem­bers seek­ing ad­vice on how to pro­tect their homes and fam­i­lies.”

CAP rep­re­sen­ta­tive and for­mer North­ern Ter­ri­tory GP of the Year Dr Peter Spaf­ford said com­mu­ni­ties were be­ing left in the dark over the risks of ex­po­sure.

“In Kather­ine, res­i­dents have been drink­ing PFAS con­tam­i­nated wa­ter – yet we’re ex­pected to tell par­ents whose kids’ PFAS blood lev­els are some of the high­est recorded in the world that’s there noth­ing to worry about,” he said.

“The Royal Aus- tralasian Col­lege of Physi­cians only six months ago called for the health ad­vice around PFAS ex­po­sure to change.

“The Gov­ern­ment has cho­sen to ig­nore that ad­vice.

“The lack of clear, con­sis­tent and in­ter­na­tion­ally aligned in­for­ma­tion be­ing pro­vided to the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity on the po­ten­tial risks of PFAS is deeply con­cern­ing.”

Queens­land CAP rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dianne Prid­dle said more and more peo­ple were ap­proach­ing Oakey and Wil­liamtown to un­der- stand the im­pli­ca­tions of PFAS con­tam­i­na­tion.

“We have had to go out and do the re­search our­selves and the lat­est ev­i­dence is con­sis­tently point­ing to­wards these chem­i­cals pos­ing sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal and health risks,” she said.

“The CAP web­site sets out in plain English the lat­est in­ter­na­tional in­for­ma­tion and news so im­pacted com­mu­ni­ties can un­der­stand what’s go­ing on.”

A Par­lia­men­tary In­quiry into PFAS has been es­tab­lished.

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