PFAS chemicals probe expanded around Adelaide’s Edinburgh airbase


Posted

May 17, 2018 14:12:46

Salisbury Council in Adelaide’s north wants answers on whether potentially cancer-causing chemicals that may be leaking from the RAAF base at Edinburgh have spread to a wider area.

Key points

  • The Defence Department will widen its probe into the spread of PFAS chemicals
  • Areas to be tested include St Kilda, Bolivar, Waterloo Corner, Burton, Penfield, Direk, Salisbury North and Paralowie
  • Expert panel this month advised the Government there was limited or no evidence that PFAS exposure is linked to human disease

It follows the announcement from the Defence Department that it will widen its probe into the spread of the chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA — the two most well-known of a family of chemicals known as PFAS.

The areas to be tested include St Kilda, Bolivar, Waterloo Corner, Burton, Penfield, Direk, Salisbury North and Paralowie.

Initial testing found some chemicals are present on the RAAF base itself and two nearby wetlands in minor levels.

Salisbury Mayor Gillian Aldridge said the process must be sped up.

“I’d hate people to start worrying the fact that they can’t go to St Kilda Playground and play,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“I’d hate to see it blown out of proportion at the moment as we don’t know what it’s like or how bad it is, so far everything that’s come up has come up fairly OK, but nevertheless I understand the testing is important.”

Salisbury has more than 50 wetlands.

“I need to know — like everyone else needs to know — with some urgency that everything is safe,” Cr Aldridge said.

“It could just be just very, very minor and that’s what we need to know I guess, we’re very proud of our water.”

Similar cases in NSW, NT and Queensland

In December last year, the Defence Department admitted that residents living around Williamtown’s Air Force base near Newcastle had been exposed to what it described as low and acceptable levels of potentially dangerous PFAS chemicals which had been used in firefighting foams for more than 30 years.

It argued that there was no consistent evidence that exposure to the chemicals caused adverse health effects in humans.

Many residents disagreed.

At the same time, residents of Katherine, in the Northern Territory who had been affected by the use of foam at the RAAF Base Tindal were being offered blood tests, paid for by the Federal Government.

They had been pushing for the tests, angry that they were missing out while something similar had already been offered to residents in Williamtown and near the Army Aviation Centre Oakey in Queensland.

Debate about health effects continues

The United States Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has warned that at high concentrations, certain PFAS have been linked to adverse health effects in laboratory animals.

The EPA said this may “reflect associations between exposure to these chemicals and some health problems such as low birth weight, delayed puberty onset, elevated cholesterol levels, and reduced immunologic responses to vaccination”.

In Canada, the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health in 2010 said “in a highly exposed community living near a chemical plant, PFOS and PFOA have been associated with pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension), birth defects (PFOA only), and increased uric acid levels — a marker of heart disease.

Just this month, an independent panel advising the Federal Government concluded that there was limited or no evidence to link exposure to PFAS chemicals with human disease.

However, it also conceded that health effects could not be ruled out.

Topics:

environmental-health,

environment,

chemical-control,

chemicals-and-pharmaceuticals,

air-force,

defence-forces,

adelaide-5000,

sa



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