THE Department of Defence is maintaining its stance against blood testing firefighters and other people affected by toxic chemicals once used in firefighting foams at Pearce air base.
Last week Echo News asked the department if former Pearce firefighters would have their health monitored including blood tests given they handled per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) every day at work and were most likely to have been potentially be exposed to any health effects.
Echo News cited the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute Health Effects Subcommittee – Health-based maximum contamination level support document on PFAS dated November 15, which said exposures to industrially-exposed workers or others with occupational exposure were much higher than in the general population.
The document said that serum PFOS concentrations of greater than 10,000 ng/ml (10 ppm) had been reported in industrially exposed workers, although levels in most workers were lower.
The department spokesman said once further investigations at other sites had been completed and the extent of the contamination and exposure pathways were better understood, the Australian Government would be in a position to consider whether it would be appropriate to expand the voluntary blood testing program to residents and workers who live or work in, or have lived or worked in the Pearce investigation area.
The spokesman said some services were already available to current and former Department of Defence members in relation to exposure to PFAS.
“For current ADF members, Defence has developed the ADF historical occupational exposure record to facilitate reporting of past exposures to any potential occupational hazard,’’ he said.
“This allows ADF members to record any historical exposures that have not already been recorded in their medical record.
“The Defence asbestos and hazardous chemicals exposure scheme (DAHCES) is open to current and former employees of the Department of Defence and former ADF personnel (including cadets), who suspect that they have been exposed to asbestos or a chemical (including PFAS) as a result of their employment with Defence.’’
People wishing to participate in the DAHCES should call 1800 DEFENCE (1800 333 3623) to register their details and access further information.
The federal Department of Health has established an expert health panel to advise the Australian Government on the potential health impacts associated with PFAS exposure and identify priority areas for further research.
But it still maintains there is no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects.
By Anita McInnes