PFAS stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances and are manufactured chemicals used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water. The chemicals have been used in Australia and around the world in many common household products and specialty applications. As a result, most people living in developed nations have some PFAS in their body.
Legacy firefighting foams containing perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as active ingredients were once used extensively worldwide and within Australia, including at Defence bases, due to their effectiveness in fighting liquid fuel fires. Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) is also commonly found in the legacy firefighting foam as an impurity in the manufacturing process.
PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS belong to the PFAS group of chemicals.
In 2004 Defence commenced phasing out its use of legacy firefighting foam containing PFOS and PFOA as active ingredients and transitioned to a more environmentally safe product.
The release of PFAS into the environment has become a concern, because we’ve learned these chemicals can persist in humans, animals and the environment. There was little understanding of impacts for PFAS at the time of use of legacy firefighting foam and as such this is a legacy issue for Defence.