Esso responds to PFAS report

ESSO has responded to an independent expert report on human exposure to firefighting chemicals.

The report concluded there was “no current evidence that suggests an increase in overall cancer risk” following exposure to per- and polyfluroalkyl substances.

The chemicals were used at Esso’s fire training facilities at the Longford gas plants, and discovery of reasonably high concentrations in groundwater prompted the company to consider buying farmland surrounding the plant as part of an EPA cleanup program.

A spokesperson for the company said it was currently reviewing the independent expert health panel’s findings and considering its options.

“Esso continues to be guided by scientific principles and current government advice,” they said.

“We are working with our neighbours on a one to one basis to support them where necessary. Each neighbour is being assessed individually.

“As part of our investigation process in accordance with the PFAS National Environment Management Plan, a property-based exposure assessment is undertaken where appropriate to guide further actions.”

This follows the Field and Game Association opening the Heart Morass to hunters for duck season, after PFAS was found allegedly seeping from RAAF Base East Sale’s facilities into the wetland.

The expert panel has been working on the findings since October 2017, with representatives from the fields of environmental health, toxicology, epidemiology, and public health.

The panel looked at evidence from Australian and international research, as well as the views of the public.

The panel’s report has been provided to the National Health and Medical Research Council and will be used to inform the $12.5 million National Research Program into the Human Health Effects of Prolonged Exposure to PFAS.

The panel’s findings support the Environmental Health Standing Committee’s advice that there is no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects.

However, given the chemicals continue to persist in humans and the environment, exposure to them should be minimised.

The panel advised the evidence does not support any specific screening or health interventions for highlyexposed groups — except for research purposes.

It also concluded there was insufficient evidence of causation between PFAS exposure and any adverse health outcomes.

The Australian Government is committed to supporting communities and responding effectively to PFAS contamination. This commitment has included reducing exposure from contaminated drinking water, providing mental health and counselling services, funding an epidemiological study into potential health effects and providing access to free blood tests for PFAS on a voluntary basis.

The Expert Health Panel for PFAS’s report is available on the federal Department of Health website.