The Tasmania Fire Service will stop using a firefighting foam which was found to contain potentially carcinogenic PFAS chemicals from next month after years of union pressure.
The United Firefighters Union carried out tests earlier this year on Tridol stored at the TFS's Cambridge site which showed it contained PFOS and PFOA, but the TFS and government had been steadfast in their decision to retain the foam in its arsenal.
But that decision was reversed recently, along with an announcement of a voluntary blood testing program for firefighters exposed to PFAS foams.
It brought Tasmania into line with other states and territories that had phased out PFAS-containing foams.
The roles of TFS chief officer and fire services minister also recently changed, with Dermot Barry and Jacquie Petrusma taking on the roles respectively.
UFU Tasmania secretary Leigh Hills said this changeover appeared to coincide with a change in attitude on the issue.
"We're pleased to see the new chief and new minister moving their position to allow voluntary blood testing to occur," he said.
"We're also pleased that the new leadership has moved to a position of accepting that Tridol did contain PFAS, and that it's better to be proactive and have blood tests now while further medical evidence and science develops."
An alternative foam to Tridol will be used from the start of November.
The blood testing program will be led by the deputy chief officer and developed in conjunction with the union and volunteer associations.
Mr Hills said some firefighters were likely to have been more exposed to the PFAS-containing foam than others, and that will help to guide how the testing program is rolled out.
"Those who have been firefighters in the last five years or so will have lower levels, but those who have been involved for 20, 30, 40 years would have higher levels because when it was introduced as a fire suppressant, nobody realised what the products contained," he said.
"It's better that firefighters know their levels so they can seek medical advice to bring those levels in their blood down, because we know there are methods of doing that."
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The TFS had previously referred to the Australian Government's Environmental Health Standing Committee which stated there was no consistent evidence that PFAS caused adverse human health effects.
The UFU had urged the TFS to be proactive however, instead of waiting on more scientific research.
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