Airservices is Australia's air navigation service provider - we provide air traffic control, aviation rescue and fire fighting and air navigation services.

Health effects of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)

Studies have shown that almost everyone has PFCs in their blood. People may be exposed to PFCs in the air, dust, food, water and various consumer products. Scientists have found that PFCs do not readily break down and are highly persistent in the environment.

Advice from Australian health authorities states that whether PFOS or PFOA cause health problems in humans is currently unknown, but on current evidence from studies in animals the potential for adverse health effects cannot be excluded.

More information on health impacts from PFC exposure can be found in a factsheet prepared by Professor Brian Priestly, Australian Centre for Human Health Risk Assessment, Monash University for Airservices Australia.

Airservices has commissioned independent expert advice to determine whether there are any potential health risks to ARFF staff from exposure to PFCs through the past use of AFFF. The advice received indicated that there are no specific health concerns likely to be associated with exposure to PFCs through the use of AFFFs.

Airservices continues to seek advice from experts to ensure we understand the latest research globally on potential health and safety impacts of PFC exposure.

Additionally, below is advice from the Department of Health.

Guidance Statements on Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances

This document provides background and contextual information about per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which were previously known as “perfluorinated chemicals”, or “PFCs”, and guidance for state and territory public health units for use in assessing any public health risks where these chemicals have been released into the environment. The Guidance Statements on Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (the Guidance Statements) provide an overview of the key public health issues to be considered in a contamination event and are intended to support jurisdictional responses. The Guidance Statements provide guidance on the potential health impacts from exposure to three types of PFASs – perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); the major human exposure pathways; the development of interim health reference values for PFOS and PFOA; breast feeding and pregnancy; and blood tests.

The Guidance Statements were developed by the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) and endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in June 2016.

The Guidance Statements are available electronically in PDF and Word formats.

Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances Factsheet

The Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances Factsheet (the Factsheet) provides general information to the public about three types of fluorinated chemicals – perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

The Factsheet was developed by the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) and endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in June 2016.

The Factsheet is available electronically in PDF and Word formats.

Source credit: Department of Health: Environmental health publications. Last updated 3 June 2016.

Interim national guidance on human health reference values for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances for use in site investigations in Australia

This interim national guidance was developed by the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) to assist relevant authorities in assessing any public health risks associated with the contamination of sites in Australia with per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. The guidance includes interim reference values for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) for use in assessing food, drinking water and recreational water. The Australian Government Department of Health has commissioned Food Standards Australia New Zealand to develop advice on final health reference values for PFOS, PFHxS and PFOA. Once available, the final health reference values will replace enHealth’s interim values.

This interim guidance was endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on 15 June 2016.

The Factsheet is available electronically in PDF and Word formats.