FIREFIGHTERS who have used firefighting foams while training at the WA Fire and Emergency Services Academy in Forrestfield will be able to have their blood tested for toxic chemicals, including PFAS.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Darren Klemm said while state and federal health departments do not recommend blood testing for PFAS – this includes perfluorooctane sulfonate known as PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid known as PFOA – it could however be useful as part of a broader plan to monitor exposure.
Mr Klemm said to monitor exposure the Department of Fire and Emergency Services would expand its existing health and wellbeing program to include testing for these chemicals, where applicable.
He said volunteers who have trained at the academy would also be tested.
“Firefighters who used the old (AFFF) foam will be eligible for the program,’’ he said.
He said the department was negotiating with suitable providers to carry out the testing but did not say who would pay for it.
State and federal health departments do not recommend blood testing as they say the result does not indicate a link to any past, current or future medical condition.
When asked how long has the department had been aware that PFAS had contaminated the academy site he said monitoring for hydrocarbon pollutants started at the academy in 2003.
“DFES added testing for PFOS and PFOA when it emerged as an issue of environmental concern and advances in technology meant it was possible to test for the substances.
“The site was registered with the Department of Water and Environment Regulation in November 2016.
When Echo News asked if the department was looking at de-contaminating the site he said PFOS and PFOA occurred almost everywhere in the environment.
“A national taskforce of environmental agencies has been established to develop a management plan for sites found to contain unacceptable levels of PFOS and PFOA.
“The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation represents Western Australia on this group.’’
He said the foam used for flammable oil and fuel fires now was not manufactured using any of the PFAS chemicals listed as a concern by environmental agencies.
“The Department of Fire and Emergency Services is reviewing non-fluorinated foam options for their effectiveness.’’
The department is investigating a sample of 20 current and former sites throughout the state.
“This is made possible by new technology that can detect tiny amounts of PFOS and PFOA in soil and water.’’
By Anita McInnes