Investigations into a potential health contamination at the Launceston Airport are still under way, two years since traces of perfluorinated compounds were found in the area.
The chemicals, also known as PFAS, were used in firefighting foam until 2010. The potential health impacts of exposure to the compounds has been uncovered in an international Fairfax Media investigation.
The investigation uncovered a cancer cluster at a school in the US, close to where contaminated PFAS sites were discovered.
Tasmania’s firefighter union says more needs to be done to protect firefighter safety from exposure to the chemicals and greater safety assurances need to be made.
Tasmania’s United Firefighter Union senior industrial officer Leigh Hill said the union had been in consultation with the state government on the issue, which he described as “ongoing”.
“We haven’t got any definitive answers yet,” he said.
“From a member’s perspective, this is something that they are very concerned about and it is something that is continually raised with us [the union].”
Bass Labor MHR Ross Hart said revelations in the Fairfax Media investigation were ‘very, very concerning’.
“It’s a very, very big issue, for everyone, and the government, until recently, hasn’t taken this seriously,” Mr Hart said.
A parliamentary inquiry into PFAS was announced by the federal government in May, after a report was tabled to Parliament about the potential contaminated sites.
“The government has been slow to act, we have been trying to push this for some time,” he said.
However, Mr Hart welcomed the news of a parliamentary inquiry, that was announced by the federal government this year.
The site at Launceston Airport, and a similar site at Hobart airport, along with the Tasmania Fire Service training ground at Cambridge were all identified as having potential for PFAS contamination.
There are about 22 sites, mostly airports, affected nationally. Investigations into these sites is being conducted by Airservices. In Tasmania, a state investigation is ongoing, in a joint partnership between the EPA and TFS.
Mr Hill said the union’s most pressing request was to have every firetruck in the state cleaned and decontaminated of potential PFASs and for firegfighters to undergo regular blood tests.
“There is more and more info coming out with regards to these chemicals and the links to cancer,” he said.
The state government is expected to give further details on Monday.