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PFAS Investigation &
Management Program

About PFAS

About PFAS & Defence

Defence is undertaking a national program to review its estate and investigate and implement a comprehensive approach to manage the impacts of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on, and in the vicinity of, some of its bases around Australia.

From 2004, Defence commenced phasing out its use of legacy aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) containing PFOS and PFOA as active ingredients. The AFFF now used by Defence is a more environmentally safe product. Further, Defence has made changes to the way it uses AFFF to ensure that the risk of releasing AFFF into the environment is minimised.

Defence is taking a responsible and proactive approach to this matter and is working with Commonwealth, state and local authorities in the conduct of its investigations.

Defence is being open and transparent in making the verified test results available to the local community, and is sharing this information with relevant state/territory and local authorities to assist with planning.

What is PFAS?

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals that are used in products that are resistant to heat, grease and water and include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluoroctanic acid (PFOA) and perflourohexane sulfonate (PFHxS).

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.
PFAS are known to be present in legacy formulations of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). AFFF is a fire-fighting foam that has been used extensively worldwide, and within Australia, from about the 1970s by both civilian and military authorities due to its effectiveness in extinguishing liquid fuel fires. Legacy formulations of AFFF contained a number of PFAS that are now known to be persistent in the environment and in humans.

Most people living in developed nations have some PFAS in their body as a result of their widespread use.

The effects of PFAS substances are largely unknown, but it is understood that they persist in the environment (water and soil) for an extended period without breaking down.

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.