- Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
- ANU PFAS Epidemiological Study Update
- Mental health services and supports for communities affected by PFAS
- Health Based Guidance Values PFAS
- Expert Health Advice
- Community Information Sessions
- Further Information
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s to make products that resist heat, stains, grease and water. Products that might contain PFAS include:
- furniture and carpets treated for stain resistance
- foams used for firefighting
- food containers
- make-up and personal care products
- and cleaning products.
There are many types of PFAS: the best known examples are:
- perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)
- perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
- perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS).
PFAS have been found to have contaminated sites where there has been historic use of fire-fighting foams that contained PFAS. Over time, these chemicals have worked their way through the soil to contaminate surface and ground water, and migrate into adjoining land areas. The release of PFAS into the environment is a concern, because these chemicals are highly persistent, have been shown to be toxic to fish and some animals, and can accumulate in the bodies of fish, animals and people who come into contact with them. However currently there is limited evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects.
- Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – Health effects and exposure pathways - PDF 143 KB
- Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – Health effects and exposure pathways - Word 479 KB
The Australian Government commissioned the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University (ANU) to conduct an epidemiological study examining the potential health effects resulting from PFAS exposure in three Australian communities - Katherine in the Northern Territory, Oakey in Queensland and Williamtown in New South Wales.
The ANU has now released the final reports:
- ANU PFAS Epidemiological Study –Overall Summary (PDF 290 KB)
- ANU PFAS Epidemiological Study –Overall Summary (Word 176 KB)
- ANU PFAS Blood Serum Study – Final Report (PDF 3367 KB)
- ANU PFAS Blood Serum Study – Final Report (Word 2065 KB)
- ANU PFAS Cross-sectional Survey – Final Report (PDF 3436 KB)
- ANU PFAS Cross-sectional Survey – Final Report (Word 1965 KB)
- ANU PFAS Data Linkage Study – Final Report (PDF 1987 KB)
- ANU PFAS Data Linkage Study – Final Report (Word 1703 KB)
- Frequently Asked Questions – ANU PFAS Study (PDF 114 KB)
- Frequently Asked Questions – ANU PFAS Study (Word 23 KB)
- Department of Health responses to additional Q&As from ANU PFAS Study participant Webinar on 9 December 2021 (PDF 149 KB)
- Department of Health responses to additional Q&As from ANU PFAS Study participant Webinar on 9 December 2021 (Word 24 KB)
Mental health services and supports for communities affected by PFAS
If you find any of this content distressing or confronting - mental health support is available through a range of face-to-face, digital and phone services.
- For immediate crisis support call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
- If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au.
- Veterans and their families can contact Open Arms on 1800 011 046 (24hrs) or openarms.gov.au.
- Head to Health helps connect Australians to information, advice, and free low-cost phone and online mental health services and support. Visit headtohealth.gov.au.
The Better Access Initiative provides Medicare rebates for psychological therapy sessions. These sessions are available face-to-face or telehealth and require referral by a GP.
The healthdirect website provides assistance in locating a GP or mental health service.
Additionally, the Australian Psychological Society website can connect you to a psychologist
Primary Health Networks
Primary Health Networks are funded to commission services to provide low or no-cost mental health supports. Please contact your local Primary Health Network for more information on the services available in your region.
The Department of Health has released Health Based Guidance Values (HBGVs) for PFAS for use in site investigations and human health risk assessments in Australia.
An Expert Health Panel for PFAS was established to:
- advise the Government on the potential health impacts associated with PFAS exposure
- and to identify priority areas for further research.
On 7 May 2018, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, released the Expert Health Panel for PFAS Final Report. For more information on the Expert Health Panel for PFAS and its findings, visit the PFAS Expert Health Panel web page.
Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) Guidance
The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth), which is a subcommittee of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), has developed guidance for state and territory public health units to use when assessing any public health risks where PFAS have been released into the environment. enHealth has issued revised Guidance Statements to reflect the most current evidence relating to PFAS which is available at Environmental Health publications. We have also produced a fact Sheet to explain what has changed in the revised enHealth Guidance Statements:
- Fact Sheet: revised enHealth Guidance Statements on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - PDF 612 KB
- Fact Sheet: revised enHealth Guidance Statements on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) - Word 32 KB
The Food Regulation Standing Committee has published a statement regarding PFAS and the general food supply. This statement is available on the Food Regulation website.
As part of the whole of government response to PFAS contamination, we continue to engage face-to-face with affected communities through community information sessions.
This has included providing presentations on the current health evidence at a number of affected communities. For a copy of these presentations, visit the PFAS Contamination – Community Information Session Presentations web page. (Please note that the information provided in these presentations capture the evidence available at that time).
For more information visit the Australian Government PFAS website.
You can also call us on 1800 941 180 or email us at Health.PFAS@health.gov.au for health related queries about PFAS
State and territory regulatory authorities have taken action to reduce the environmental and public health risks at sites where there is confirmed contamination with these chemicals. If you would like further information on what is happening in your State or Territory please visit the websites of your state or territory health department and environment protection authority.