Federal Government may phase out potentially harmful firefighting chemical

The Federal Government is considering phasing out the potentially harmful chemical used in firefighting foam following a leak from the Qantas hanger into the Brisbane River.

The leak killed fish and prompted a public warning by the Queensland Government to not eat seafood sourced locally.

Minister for Infrastructure Darren Chester said they are now considering a “transitional removal” of the chemical used in firefighting foam.

“While it is known PFAS can persist for a long time, there is no consistent evidence that PFAS exposure is harmful to human health,” said Mr. Chester.

“The Government is considering management options for PFOS and PFOA transitional removal from use, improved management and appropriate disposal of PFOS-containing firefighting foams at all facilities in Australia, consistent with the listing of the chemical under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

“The Federal department continues to work with Qantas, BAC, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other relevant Commonwealth departments regarding management of the spill and to ensure the spill is managed correctly and in line with respective jurisdictional regulations.”

PFASs have been used to improve the ability of firefighting foam to smother fire but a growing body of research has proven that PFAS can be dangerous to human health. PFSO (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) are two commonly used PFAS that are known to accumulate in animal and human tissue, including the liver and blood. PFAS has been linked to bladder and liver cancer, endocrine disruption, and developmental and reproductive toxicity, including neonatal mortality, and are potentially lethal to animals.

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