PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in a range of common household products and in some types of fire-fighting foams, including those used by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
Fire-fighting foams containing PFAS have been used in fire training drills and emergencies by the public and private sectors in Australia and worldwide for more than three decades. In 2004, Defence commenced phasing out its use of legacy firefighting foams containing perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid (the old names for PFAS) as active ingredients.
Issues relating to PFAS contamination and exposure are being managed at a whole of Government level, led by the Department of the Environment and Energy.
The Australian Government’s priority remains the health and safety of communities and the management of potential environmental impacts of PFAS. Recognising the broad impact of this issue, a cross-agency PFAS Taskforce (of which the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is a member) was established to provide the lead role in coordinating the Government’s response to PFAS contamination.
Many veterans and ADF members will be aware of the high level of public interest surrounding the historical use of specialised, lifesaving firefighting foams (known as (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) products), which were used to control liquid fuel fires and which previously contained synthetic surfactants (foam making chemicals), now called PFAS.
The Department of Defence is investigating the extent of this contamination and has published maps on the Defence website showing the current Investigation Sites throughout Australia. Visit the Defence Website for further information.
DVA encourages all serving and ex-serving members of the ADF to lodge claims for any diagnosed conditions they believe are related to any part of their defence service.