Katherine residents will have more than a year to line up for their free blood test.
Voluntary blood testing for PFAS chemicals will begin Katherine from Saturday.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, has today announced that a Voluntary Blood Testing Program for people impacted by PFAS contamination from RAAF Base Tindal will begin.
The Federal Government has committed $5.7 million for a community support package which includes a Voluntary Blood Testing Program, an epidemiological study and dedicated mental health and counselling services.
The Voluntary Blood Testing Program will provide one free PFAS blood test to those people who live or work, or have lived or worked, in the RAAF Base Tindal Investigation Area.
This includes people currently living elsewhere who previously lived or worked in the Investigation Area in Katherine.
Professor Murphy said a positive blood test for PFAS contaminants will not indicate, by itself, any harm to a person’s health.
It is expected that the ANU will visit Katherine in the near future to provide more information to the community about the epidemiological study.
The Northern Territory Primary Health Network has been funded to commission dedicated mental health and counselling services to support the Katherine community in this period of uncertainty.
People who need support should discuss this with their GP, so that they can be referred to the appropriate services.
People do not need to have had a PFAS blood test to access these services.
Telephone and online counselling services, through Support Now, are available also to the community.
These service can be accessed anywhere in Australia by calling: 1300 096 257 or by visiting supportnow.org.au.
More information on the community support package is available at health.gov.au/pfas.
Senator Nigel Scullion has welcomed today’s announcement by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, of the voluntary blood testing program in Katherine being available from this weekend.
“The Federal Government will fund a single PFAS blood test for those people who live or work, or have lived or worked, in the RAAF Base Tindal Investigation Area. The voluntary blood testing program will be available from 17 March 17 2018 until April 30 2019,” Senator Scullion said.
“The Department of Health has contracted Sonic Healthcare, which trades under the name Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology in the NT, to provide pathology services for the voluntary blood testing program.
“As with any other blood test, eligible individuals need to visit a GP to seek a blood test.
“The Department of Health will also meet with local GPs and health professionals in Katherine during this week to provide further information on these services and PFAS,” he said.
The government in December announced a $5.7m community support package which will offer free blood testing to Katherine.
Counselling services will be offered and a health study launched as well.
Representatives from the Department of Health will attend community shopfronts being hosted by the Department of Defence in Katherine in late March to promote the services and to provide the community with the opportunity to ask questions about the services or the potential health effects associated with exposure to PFAS.
“It is important to note at present there is insufficient evidence for a medical practitioner to be able to tell a person whether their blood level will make them sick now or later in life, or if any current health problems are related to the PFAS levels found in their blood. That is, PFAS blood tests currently have no diagnostic or prognostic value and cannot be used to guide clinical management.
“A blood test can measure the level of PFAS in a person’s blood and can tell a person how their blood levels compare with the levels seen in the general Australian population. All Australians are expected to have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood. A broad range of levels would be expected in all communities due to background exposures. There is no specific PFAS level that is considered to be “normal” or “abnormal” either in Australia or overseas.
“The Australian Government has funded the NT PHN to commission dedicated face to face mental health and counselling services and community wellness programmes to support the Katherine community. These services will complement existing services available in Katherine. People who need support should discuss this with their GP, who can refer them to the appropriate mental health and counselling services.
“As the Department of Health has said throughout, there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFOS and PFOA causes adverse human health effects.”
More information for individuals seeking a blood test, as well as for GPs, is available at health.gov.au/pfas