Foam and misfortune
TAKING ON TOXIC LEGACY OF CHEMICAL
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.