PFAS expert health panel established

An expert health panel will look at evidence from Australian and international scientific research into the potential human health effects of PFAS exposure.

AN expert health panel has been established to review the literature on potential health effects of PFAS exposure and identify priority areas for research.
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, are a group of manufactured chemicals used since the 1950s in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in some types of firefighting foams.

The firefighting foams were used at Gingin airfield in the past and concern about them led to the Department of Defence launching an environmental investigation there last month.

To achieve its objective of advising the federal government on the potential health impacts associated with PFAS exposure and identify priority areas for further research the federal Department of health said the panel would take into account the evidence available from both Australian and international scientific research into the potential human health effects of PFAS exposure and consider the views of the public and other stakeholders through an invitation for public written submissions.

National Toxics Network and International POPs Elimination Network senior adviser Mariann Lloyd-Smith said the chemicals – PFOS, PFOA or PFHxS – previously used in some firefighting foams were toxic and bioaccumulative – building up in all living organisms including humans, were intergenerational, being passed from mother to child and capable of long range transport and thus found in the Arctic and Antarctic.

“Most importantly, they are so persistent, they have no way of breaking down so what is released to the environment is with us for all time,’’ she said.

She said following the class action between Dupont (a manufacturer of Teflon which contains PFOA) and US residents in the vicinity of a major contamination incident the jointly established C8 Science Panel concluded PFOA could cause kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and medically diagnosed high cholesterol in humans.

Former Department of Defence firefighters who spent time at Gingin airfield have raised their concerns about exposure to PFAS with Yanchep News Online.

The former firefighters said they have some health issues associated by some researchers with the toxic chemicals.

But the federal Department of Health maintains there is no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects.

It is expected that the expert health panel will provide its advice to the Health Minister Greg Hunt in February 2018.

The expert health panel’s advice will be released publicly.

The panel members are Professor Nick Buckley (chairman), Professor Malcolm Sim, Dr Ki Douglas, Professor Alison Jones and Professor Helen Håkansson (international representative).

The Department of Health said all of the panellists had demonstrated expertise in the fields of environmental health, toxicology, epidemiology and/or public health.
For more information on PFAS or the panel you can call 1800 941 180 or email