Tox­ins test­ing to start

EX­POSED WORK­ERS’ RISK

The Sunday Times - - News - JOHN FLINT

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.”

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