Defence is undertaking a national program to review, 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 firefighting foam containing specific types of PFAS - perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - as active ingredients. The legacy firefighting foam was 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. Defence now uses a more environmentally safe product. Furthermore, Defence has made changes to the way it uses firefighting foam to ensure that the risk of releasing the products into the environment is minimised.
Defence is taking a 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.
Defence continues to work towards the effective monitoring and management of PFAS contamination on and in the vicinity of affected sites across Australia.
On 12 August 2019, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released updated guidance on PFAS in recreational water.
The guidance includes recreational water health-based guidance values which have been developed using a new methodology as recommended by its Water Quality Advisory Committee.
Further information is available on the NHMRC website.
The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has released guidance statements to help assess public health risks when PFAS have been released into the environment. In July 2019, the statements were updated to reflect the most current evidence relating to PFAS.
The 2019 PFAS Guidance Statements can be found on the enHealth website.
A factsheet about the revised statement can be found here.
For more information, contact the Commonwealth Department of Health:
Phone: 1800 941 180