Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

This page contains information regarding Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Page last updated: 16 June 2021

Contents:


Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

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 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.

Further information:


ANU PFAS Epidemiological Study Update

The Australian Government has 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 the investigation areas of Williamtown, NSW; Oakey, Queensland; and Katherine, NT.

The ANU is expected to provide its final reports to us on 30 August 2021. Following this, there will be a short review period prior to public release of the report.

After the report’s release, participants from the three investigation and comparison communities, as well as other key stakeholders, will have an opportunity to hear the findings and ask questions.

For more information on the study, please visit the ANU PFAS Epidemiological Study page or contact pfas.health.study@anu.edu.au.


Mental health services and supports for communities affected by PFAS

The Australian Government funds a range of mental health services to ensure all Australians can access the right care and essential services whenever and wherever they need. Individuals affected by PFAS can access mental health support through a range of face-to-face, digital and phone services. These include:

Better Access

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.

Head to Health

Head to Health helps connect Australians to information, advice, and free low-cost phone and online mental health services and support. To seek support for yourself, or to help support someone else, you can access the digital mental health gateway by visiting Head to Health.


Health Based Guidance Values PFAS

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.


Expert Health Advice

Expert Health Panel for PFAS

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:

Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) Statement

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.


Community Information Sessions

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).


Further Information

For more information visit the Australian Government PFAS website.

You can also call us on 1800 941 180 or email us at 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 agency.