Blood tests able to detect firefighting foam chemical that is causing concern in Australia

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Source:

RNZ rnz.co.nz

Blood testing is able to detect a firefighting foam chemical that is causing concern in Australia, the Ministry of Health says.

Blood test generic.

Blood test generic.

Source: RNZ rnz.co.nz

Both countries are engaged in nationwide environmental investigations into foam contamination of soil and water around defence bases, airports, and potentially also factories.

Testing so far has focused on just two of the hundreds of PFAS-class chemicals in the foam - PFOS and PFOA - but a third, PFHxS, has been turning up in blood tests in the contaminated Northern Territory town of Katherine.

"The levels we are getting here are way above those seen in America and Europe and the toxicity of PFHxS much greater than the other PFAS chemicals," doctor P J Spafford told the local newspaper, the Katherine Times.

It also quoted a federal health official saying that "due to the lack of evidence available, a PFHxS blood level below which minimal risk is predicted does not exist".

An expert health panel in Australia last week put out updated advice on PFAS, which continued with the previous message that there was no evidence the chemicals affected people's health, but not enough evidence to rule it out either.

In Manawatū last month, locals near the contaminated Ōhakea airbase expressed anger at difficulties getting access to blood tests offered by the ministry.

"The Ministry is currently reviewing options around blood testing," it told RNZ in a statement.

The testing laboratory AssureQuality "are continuing to provide blood tests under the current criteria to ensure no residents who meet those criteria are prevented from having a blood test during this review process".

The New Zealand Health Ministry said it had reviewed the new advice and would not change the New Zealand public health approach, which essentially mirrors Australia's.

Many Australian locals in the worst-hit towns of Katherine and Oakey in Queensland, and Williamstown in Victoria, have expressed scepticism about the new advice, saying it is too soft.

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