Australia’s government should ban the use of firefighting foams that contain certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and collect and destroy remaining stocks of such foams, a report from Parliament recommends.
The report targets for this treatment older formulas of foams containing three PFAS: perfluorooctane sulfonate, perfluorooctanoic acid, and perfluorohexane sulfonate. All are environmentally persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.
The report also suggests the Australian government restrict use of PFAS foams containing shorter-chain fluorocarbons called fluorotelomers to essential applications only, such as high-risk firefighting situations. Fluorotelomers with six-carbon chains, used in these foams since early this century, have low toxicity and bioaccumulation potential but can biodegrade to persistent chemicals.
A joint committee of Parliament assembled the report because Australia faces extensive PFAS pollution in water supplies near military installations where firefighting foams are used. In areas near some bases, residents are advised to avoid eating leafy green vegetables from their gardens, eating eggs from backyard poultry, or eating the meat of, or drinking milk from, home-grown cattle or sheep, because of PFAS contamination.
The report recommends Australia’s government consider purchasing private property contaminated with PFAS migrating from military bases. Accepting such compensation, the report adds, should not preclude anyone from future claims of health problems due to exposure to PFAS.
The report recommends the federal government work with states and territories to determine whether irrigation of crops with well water contaminated with PFAS should continue or whether restrictions are needed.