Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
- Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used in fire-fighting foams.
- There is no consistent evidence that PFAS exposure causes adverse human health effects.
- Their release is an emerging concern.
- This is because PFAS chemicals are highly persistent and can accumulate in animals and people.
- As a precaution, human exposure to these chemicals should be minimised while research into the potential effects of these substances on human health is conducted.
- The Australian Government Department of Health has ‘health-based guidance values’ developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand for the three main PFAS chemicals.
- These are a precautionary measure for conducting human health risk assessments at site investigations in Australia.
- In Tasmania, the Environmental Protection Agency is leading our response to PFAS contamination.
In early 2018, the Department of Health engaged GHD to investigate the presence of PFAS chemicals in fish, shellfish and waters of the Pitt Water area. A summary of the investigation is provided below:
Download the Investigation of PFAS in Pitt Water - Summary
North Esk River
- In June 2019, Airservices Australia released preliminary site investigation results into PFAS at Launceston Airport.
- The PSI did not investigate off-site impacts, but the Tasmanian Department of Health undertook limited off-site sampling of downstream waterways to assess water and fish quality.
- A range of PFAS chemicals were detected in three creeks draining from Launceston Airport to North Esk River.
- Three fish species (brown trout, common roach and eel) were sampled from North Esk River.
- All fish caught at Corra Linn and downstream exceeded the ‘trigger points’ for the chemical PFOS.
- This means that further investigation of fish caught for consumption is required.
- PFAS was not detected in fish caught upstream of Corra Linn towards Blessington.
- Precautionary advice has been released to not consume fish, including eels, caught in the North Esk River downstream of the Corra Linn Gorge/Bridge.
- The advice remains in place until further information is available.
Where to get further information
For further information, please visit the following websites:
- Australian Government Department of Health PFAS information
- Access the Australian Government’s Expert Health Panel for PFAS report and a summary on their website
- Download the Commonwealth Department of Health fact sheet on health effects and exposure pathways
- Download the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) guidance for the risks associated with PFAS in the environment
- Download the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee PFAS fact sheet
- Download the Food Regulation Standing Committee statement regarding PFA and general food supply