An 11-year-old Katherine boy's blood test for PFAS has revealed contamination levels which have both alarmed and outraged his parents.
“If Katherine needs a wake-up call, especially its leaders who seem to be in denial, then surely this is it,” the boy’s father said.
While the Federal Government’s ‘allowance” for PFOS at this age are 18 nanograms per millilitre, the boy’s result was 102.
Another PFAS chemical called PFHxS, which has no specific allowable limit yet so the government advises medicos to use the PFOS number, was found in the boy’s bloodstream at 110 nanograms per millilitre.
The Katherine Times has agreed with the boy’s family to protect their identity and they have shared their result with us.
Their son received his results this week from Dr P.J. Spafford who is undertaking blood testing of Katherine residents on behalf of the Federal Department of Health.
Dr Spafford has already warned the department from the initial tests alarming results were already showing up in Katherine.
PFAS is the name given to a group of chemicals used at the Tindal RAAF Base in firefighting foams used in training between 1988 and 2004.
Those chemicals continue to leak from the base, under Katherine, and into the town’s water supply which emergency action has now made safe to drink.
Dr Spafford has warned PFHxS, part of the PFAS family of chemicals, is the most worrying of the current Katherine results.
“We don’t know what to do,” the Katherine father said.
“We are holding our breath and hoping he does not get sick.”
The government has already advised taking part in the blood tests that “testing currently does not indicate the likelihood of disease or otherwise in that person”.
But is also warns patients with high results to avoid future PFAS exposure.
The Katherine family lives near the base and has been supplied with bottled water once the property’s bores were found to be contaminated.
They have recently been supplied with a rainwater tank by the Department of Defence which has been filled with Katherine’s treated water which has been given the official all clear..
Tuber vegetables grown and once eaten on the property have also been tested and found to be contaminated.
Experts estimate that PFAS contamination, at the levels in the boy’s blood, could take many years, even over a decade, to reduce to the “accepted” level.
“We started our tests with our son because he was the most important one,” the father said.
“Obviously when his result came back like this, we have had ours tested too, and wait for the results.
“We just hope these chemicals are as benign as the experts seem to say.
“But so to say there is no consistent evidence they cause harm is not reassuring to a parent, is just means there is some evidence.
“It seems people in Katherine, especially those who are supposed to be our leaders, are trying to play the PFAS issue down.
“This is a person, this is our son, is that what they needed? Evidence that our children are contaminated?
As a parent I want to hear a lot more passion from our community, I am angry, I think other people should be angry about this too.”
“Our son was not born with this, we have done this to him.”
“PFHxS and other PFAS’s (excluding PFOS and PFOA) are reported in the blood test results for research purposes,” the health department has told Katherine Times.
“PFHxS blood levels are not predictive of health problems in individuals. There is currently no consistent evidence of PFHxS resulting in specific health impacts.
“Due to the lack of evidence available, a PFHxS blood level below which minimal risk is predicted does not exist.”
- A PFAS Support service is currently available to Katherine residents on 1300 096 257.