PFAS monitoring in eels - advice about eating eels and fish
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recently released a report about Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) levels in eels from areas in Tasmania known to be contaminated with PFAS chemicals. The report Preliminary targeted assessment of PFAS in eels downstream of source sites is available via the EPA website.
The eels were collected from rivulets, marshland and farm dams on private property around three locations where firefighting foams containing PFAS have historically been used. The locations are:
- Tasmania Fire Service’s training facility in Cambridge - Southern Tasmania
- Launceston Airport – Northern Tasmania
- Devonport Airport – Northwest Tasmania
The Department of Health (DoH) is issuing the following precautionary advice:
- Do not eat eels and fish from any waterways around the Devonport Airport including on private land
- Do not eat eels and fish from any waterways around the Launceston Airport including on private land
- Do not eat eels and fish from the Barilla Rivulet in Cambridge, including farm dams fed by Barilla Rivulet including on private land
This advice is precautionary and is based on limited sampling and will remain in place until further information is available.
People who may have been catching and eating fish and eels from the areas listed above are not considered to be at risk of any adverse effects and should not be concerned.
Currently, there is no consistent evidence of a significant impact of PFAS on human health, however, more research is still needed. Until more is known about PFAS, the Australian Government recommends that, as a precaution, human exposure to PFAS chemicals be minimised.
The eel sampling results reported in the EPA report were compared to relevant human health criteria for consumption of finfish. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has developed ‘trigger points’ for individual foods and food groups. These values help state and territory authorities determine whether further investigation is needed if PFAS is detected in food. The survey results showed that eels collected from all locations had accumlated PFOS + PFHxS (combined) levels equal to or exceeding the FSANZ ‘trigger.
The EPA is the lead agency for Tasmania’s response to PFAS contamination.
There are current investigations underway in Tasmania to understand PFAS impacts in the environment, including exposure pathways to humans, such as through water and food.
DoH will continue to work with the EPA, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, and the Tasmania Fire Service to support further investigations and to consider the impact on the food supply and risks to public health.