Aqueous Film Forming Foams Health Concerns - UPDATE
Wednesday, 18 Apr 2018
Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF) have been an integral component of a firefighter’s arsenal for many years. Whether synthetic or protein based, these foams are found at mine sites, ships, airports, defence facilities and facilities that use or store large volumes of flammable and combustible liquids such as a refinery.
Following testing undertaken in 2016 by the Australian Defence Force and the Victorian Country Fire Authority, concerns were raised about the potential for adverse health outcomes from the historical use of per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) based AFFF prior to 2003. Of particular concern are the chemicals Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS).
QFES undertook their own tests mid-2016 at Enoggera, Cairns, Rockhampton, Southport, Yeppoon, Townsville and Oakey, and in late 2006 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 results for these tests, compared against the new FSANZ guidance values for PFAS, can be found here.
Whilst QFES discontinued the purchase of AFFF in 2003, not all stocks were disposed of and some may have been used post 2003. In recognition of this, the Specialist Response and Planning Directorate (SRPD) has commenced a process to dispose of AFFF stocks held by QFES. A Standing Order (SO-Q-BM-3.39, effective 07/07/17) was also issued detailing an associated health program for past and present staff and volunteers. This includes free consultation with an independent health practitioner and associated blood screening. Originally slated to finish 20 June 2018, the RFBAQ have requested a 12 month extension to 30 June 2019.
Staff or volunteers with health or blood test related inquiries, should email QFES Workplace Health and Safety at PFFF.EnquiriesQFES@qfes.qld.gov.au.