Australia

Firefighters to meet over PFAS chemicals

The United Firefighters Union is putting the heat back on the Defence Department by calling for a national approach to chemicals used in firefighting foam.

Firefighters will ramp up their campaign calling for a national approach to toxic foam contamination.

United Firefighters Union branches will meet on Tuesday to discuss the impact of PFAS.

Among those attending the meeting in Canberra will be an environmental sciences professor and a widow of a firefighter who died of cancer last year, speaking about the effects of the chemicals.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) is a group of chemicals used in firefighting foam that remain in the environment for years.

Airservices Australia, the government-owned company which provides firefighting services, phased out the chemicals at all civilian airports from 2010 due to health concerns.

But Defence still uses "minuscule" amounts of PFAS at its RAAF bases around the country.

The pollutants are still used by Airservices at the joint military and civil airports in Townsville and Darwin at the contractual insistence of Defence.

UFU said last year that even tiny amounts of PFAS could have harmful results to firefighters.

Aviation branch secretary Henry Lawrence wants mandatory country-wide testing for all brigades, saying uncertainty is making serving and former firefighters anxious.

"These people are sitting there knowing that they were spraying this stuff around with gay abandon on the bases, but they were told there's nothing to fear," Mr Lawrence said last year.

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