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 per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

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

Advice from Australian health authorities states that whether PFAS cause health problems in humans is currently unknown and to date there is not enough information available to definitively say what, if any, health effects may be caused by exposure to PFAS. However, since these chemicals remain in humans and the environment for many years, it is recommended that as a precaution human exposure to PFAS be minimised.

More information on health impacts from PFAS 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 aviation rescue fire fighter staff from exposure to PFAS through the past use of AFFF. The advice received indicated that there are no specific health concerns likely to be associated with exposure to PFAS 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 PFAS exposure.

Additionally, below is advice from the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Health-based guidance values for PFAS

The Australian Government Department of Health commissioned Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to develop advice on final health reference values for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). FSANZ released a report on Perfluorinated Chemicals in Food in 2017 and these health reference values replace the Environmental Health Standing Committee’s (enHealth) interim values.

The report, summaries and frequently asked questions about the report’s recommendations are available online.

Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances Factsheet

The Commonwealth Department of Health’s Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances Factsheet (the Factsheet) provides general information to the public about health effects and exposure pathways of two types of fluorinated chemicals – perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

The Factsheet replaces the previous PFAS Factsheet and the Guidance Statements 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 31 March 2017.