The government has appointed an expert independent consultant as an initial step in assessing potential risks to human health from chemicals from firefighting foams.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said Adjunct Professor Andrew Bartholomaeus, an expert in toxicology and chemicals regulation, would conduct an independent evaluation of toxicity values for exposure to what are known as PFAS chemicals in drinking water.
The review will start immediately and report at the end of August.
PFOS and PFOA compounds – referred to as PFAS – come from firefighting foam, widely used by civil and military firefighters around the world from the 1970s because of its effectiveness at quelling fuel fires that could occur in an air crash.
Its use was discontinued in the 2000s when it was realised chemical contaminants persisted in the environment and could leach into groundwater.
This contamination has been detected in and around a number of Australian defence bases and also civil airports.
The impact on human health from exposure to these chemicals remains unclear, along with safe or unsafe levels in drinking water.
Ms Ley said interim guidelines on PFAS were developed by the Standing Committee on Environmental Health, or enHealth, which reviewed overseas approaches for setting guideline values for PFAS in drinking water.
“The Australian government is committed to protecting the health and safety of our communities and our environment and shares concerns about PFAS contamination of land and water,” she said.
“We will be working with states and territories on a national approach to the issue.”