PFAS Information

What are PFAS?

As explained by the Department of Health, Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals, which include PFOA and PFOS.

PFAS were first produced in the 1940’s and 1950’s. These chemicals have unique properties that include water repellence and molecular stability, and as such they were used in the manufacture of numerous commercial and industrial products such as upholstery, textiles, hydraulic fluid, non-stick cookware, Scotchgard and firefighting foams.

PFAS does not breakdown in the environment and therefore can accumulate in animals and humans.

Does PFAS affect people’s health?

As explained by the Federal Department of Health, “Latest evidence suggests PFAS exposure has been associated with mildly elevated levels of cholesterol, effects on kidney function and effects on the levels of some hormones. However, these effects are small —generally within ranges seen in the general population. PFAS has not been shown to cause disease in humans”.

PFAS are toxic, resistant to degradation, bio-accumulate in food chains and have a long half-life in humans. PFAS can also travel long distances and have been found at the North and South Poles. People and animals can be exposed to PFAS through food, water, and indoor and outdoor dust and air.

Once ingested, PFOS and PFOA are eliminated very slowly from the human body. This means concentrations of these chemicals in the body increase over time if they are continuously consumed in food or water.

The extract below has been taken from the Australian Government, Department of Health Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) fact sheet.

PFAS have not been proven to cause any specific illnesses in humans. However, since these chemicals remain in humans and the environment for many years, it is recommended that as a precaution human exposure to PFAS be minimised.

Research into potential health effects of PFAS is ongoing around the world. To date there is not enough information available to definitively say what, if any, health effects may be caused by exposure to PFAS.

PFAS use by the MFS

The MFS proactively commenced phasing out foams containing PFOS in 2007 and PFOA in 2014 after extensive research, consultation and liaison with both the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) South Australia.

It is estimated that Class B Firefighting Foams (for flammable liquids) containing PFOS or PFOA were introduced by fire services in the 1970s. 

Historically, PFOS and PFOA compound firefighting foams were used on rare occasions, and not routinely by the MFS.

The MFS proactively replaced all firefighting foam in 2016 as a precaution, to ensure the MFS stocks only modern, fluorine free foam.

State-wide, all MFS appliances carry modern firefighting foams that do not contain PFOS or PFOA (PFAS), and are fluorine free.

During 2017-2018, after consultation with industry providers, the MFS proactively decided to remove all fire extinguishers containing PFAS.

- Updated 18 October 2021.