Toxins testing to start
EXPOSED WORKERS’ RISK
BLOOD tests on WA firefighters and former fire personnel who came into contact with toxic foams might start as soon as next month.
United Firefighters Union WA branch secretary Lea Anderson, right, said she hoped the blood-testing program would get under way next month.
The Sunday Times revealed last October that the Department of Fire and Emergency Services had agreed to provide the voluntary testing, but the roll-out has been delayed amid negotiations over the details.
“The union is very comfortable that access to the most effective and appropriate tests will be made available to any retired or serving personnel who have been exposed to these foams,” Ms Anderson said.
There is increasing research in Australia and around the world about the damage to human health and the environment from the use of manmade per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), used in old firefighting foams and other products.
“I think the key to this is that any employee or retired employee of the department who has been exposed to these foams should have access to the testing. I think the State Government accepts there are significant issues with regard to the exposure of firefighting personnel as well as the broader issues of contamination for the environment.”
DFES confirmed arrangements were being finalised. “Consultation on the Voluntary Blood Testing Program is continuing and the program will commence as soon as arrangements are finalised,” a spokesman said on Friday.
PFAS investigations in WA and the rest of the country are broad. Dozens of investigations are being conducted to determine the extent of contamination at defence bases, former fire facilities and airports where PFAS was used for decades.
There is currently a Federal parliamentary inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around the nation’s defence bases. Submissions closed on Friday.
An expert health panel set up by the Federal Government reported in May there was limited or no evidence to link exposure to PFAS chemicals with human disease, but health effects cannot be ruled out.
Ms Anderson said the position was “ridiculous”.
“The union is actively monitoring and tracking international developments and that’s why the approach being taken by some people, particularly at Commonwealth Government level, is so disappointing.
“We’re seeing international studies highlighting increased risks of cancer and other diseases from exposure.
“So it’s time for our Federal Government in particular to step up.”