Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

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

Page last updated: 03 April 2017

Contents:


Health Based Guidance Values for PFAS

The Australian Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy has announced the publishing of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), Perfluorinated Chemicals in Food:

Plain English summaries, including FAQs, of the key components of FSANZ’s advice, and the full report are available at the  health based guidance values web page.


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.

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. There are many types of PFAS, with the best known examples being perfluorooctane sulfonate, known as “PFOS”, and perfluorooctanoic acid, known as “PFOA”. 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 is available at Environmental health publications.

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:

State regulatory authorities have taken action to reduce the environmental and public health risks at sites where there is confirmed contamination with these chemicals.

For information regarding the Department of Defence PFAS Investigation and Management program, please visit the Department of Defence's website.


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, and Oakey, Queensland.

These include:


Community Walk-In Sessions

As part of the whole of government response to PFAS contamination, the Department of Health is engaging face-to-face with affected communities through community walk-in sessions.

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


Further Information

If you would like further information on the Department of Health’s response to PFAS contamination, please contact the Department on 1800 941 180 or at health.PFAS@health.gov.au.

If you would like further information on the Department of Defence’s PFAS Investigation and Management Program, please contact the Department of Defence on 1800 365 414 or at PFASDefenceCoordination@golder.com.au