Important Message and Factsheet From QFES For All Brigade Members

Thursday, 27 Apr 2017

Since the emergence last year of health concerns around the historic use of some types firefighting foam, in particular Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF) containing PerFluorinated Chemicals (PFCs), QFES has worked closely with national and state authorities to ensure its workplaces are safely managed and firefighters are kept informed.
 
In mid-2016 QFES tested soil and fluid in in-ground water tanks (case 4 pits) at Fire and Rescue stations at Enoggera, Cairns, Rockhampton, Southport, Yeppoon, Townsville and Oakey to identify the levels of PFOAs and PFOS and related substances at these locations. I reported a summary of the results of these tests to you in November 2016.
 
Further testing was conducted in late 2016. This was at stations in Cairns South, Forrest Beach, Ayr, Home Hill, Mt Isa, Airlie Beach, Dysart, Mackay, Sarina, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Noosa Heads, Charleville, Arana Hills, Annerley, Windsor, Roma St, Kemp Place, as well as at QCESA.
 
The testing was conducted to identify the concentration and distribution of a range of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances including PFOA and PFOS.
 
This year the national responsible body, the Standing Committee of Environmental Health (enHealth), updated its health-based guidance values for (PFAS). These water quality values were developed for drinking water use and recreational contact, such as swimming and boating and not for occasional contact.
 
The test results from all the QFES locations have now been compared to these new national values.
 
For the sum of PFOS and PFHxS concentrations:

  •     Seven sites, including QCESA, exceed the EnHealth recreational water quality guidelines.
  •     13 sites exceeded the EnHealth drinking water quality guidelines.

The result at one site exceeded the EnHealth drinking water quality guidelines for PFOA concentrations.
 
As part of QFES' response to these emerging issues and our increased knowledge of PFCs, the Specialist Response and Planning Directorate (SRPD) has commenced a process to dispose of AFFF stocks held by QFES.
 
We are also developing a program to manage the water pits at Fire and Rescue stations to ensure any contaminated materials are disposed of appropriately and the pits pose no long term risk to the environment.
 
An associated health program is also being finalised for the paid and volunteer workforce. It will include a free consultation with an independent health practitioner and associated blood screening, if desired, for staff and volunteers - past or present - who may have come into contact with foams.
 
While this screening is not expected to provide definitive guidance about an individual's health, it will provide a baseline for individuals and QFES for future reference as further research is conducted on the health and environmental impacts of AFFF and PFCs.
 
Staff or volunteers with health or blood test related inquiries, should email QFES Workplace Health and Safety at PFFF.EnquiriesQFES@qfes.qld.gov.au.
 
The safety and wellbeing of our workforce is my primary focus during this process. To ensure you have a better understanding of AFFF and PFCs and the use of these compounds in the community, please refer to the attached fact sheet.

From Acting QFES Commissioner Mark Roache

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