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PFAS Investigation &
Management Program

What is PFAS?

What is PFAS?

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water.

PFAS have been used in Australia and around the world in many common household products and specialty applications, including:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications
  • Food packaging and
  • Some industrial processes.
As a result, most people living in developed nations have some PFAS in their body. The image below shows products that commonly contain PFAS.

Legacy firefighting foam, containing perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as active ingredients, was used at Defence bases for emergency firefighting situations and training. 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.

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. At the time of use, there was little understanding on the impacts of PFAS and as such this is a legacy issue for Defence.

There is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects. As these chemicals persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommends that human exposure to these chemicals is minimised as a precaution.

Previously PFAS were known as "perfluorinated chemicals" (PFCs). However, as the term PFCs is more commonly used to mean perfluorocarbons, which are greenhouse gases, and consistent with broader industry, Defence now uses the term PFAS.

HMAS Stirling