THIRTY-one serving and former WA fire-fighters have had their blood tested for chemicals used in old fire-fighting foams.

More past and present firefighters are expected to participate in the voluntary testing program, which started in September.

As revealed by The Sunday Times last year, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services agreed to provide testing for those who want to know if they have elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) in their blood.

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In South Australia, where more than 215 past and present firefighters have undergone tests, 84 returned results that showed “concerning” levels.

Nine from one Adelaide fire station were found to have PFAS exceeding 100 nanograms a millilitre (ng/ml), well above the “normal” level of 10ng/ml.

Authorities in SA this week conducted tests at the station to determine the cause of the PFAS exposure, which has been linked to food produced in a vegetable garden on the site.

A spokesman for DFES said it has not received any results from the WA blood testing program to date. “Individual results are forwarded to the participant’s GP,” a spokesman said. “Participants are given with the opportunity to speak with a doctor prior to undertaking the blood test.”

There is increasing research in Australia and around the world about the damage to human health and the environment from the use of chemicals used in old firefighting foams and other products.

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United Firefighters Union WA branch secretary Lea Anderson said the union was now fighting to get access to the blood tests for firefighters at RAAF Base Pearce and HMAS Stirling employed by contractor Broad Spectrum.

“We’d like to see Broad Spectrum step up and protect their employees and we would like to see the Department of Defence take some responsibility for the previous employees from Transfield and from the defence services who were firefighters before (the role) was contracted out,” she said.

DFES is also working on an audit to establish the number of facilities and former sites across the State impacted by PFAS contamination.

“DFES has applied to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s Contaminated Sites Management Account to fund further investigation at 10 sites where old firefighting foam was used or stored,” a spokesman said.

“Further investigation will also continue at Fleet Services in O’Connor and the former Belmont Fire Station and Training School.”

John Flint


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