There are no cancer worries in Katherine despite PFAS contamination fears, according to the NT Government.
NT chief medical officer Dr Hugh Heggie said the latest research showed no evidence of cancer clusters in the Katherine region.
Dr Heggie said Katherine’s cancer statistics were even lower on average than the rest of the NT.
He said the information was provided by the Health Department’s Health Gains Planning Branch which confirmed an earlier assessment regarding fears of elevated cancer rates in the Katherine region because of the chemical contamination.
Dr Heggie gave no further information on the study at last night’s well attended PFAS update meeting in Katherine.
After the meeting, attended by more than 100 people, some residents said they wanted to know more about how the study was prepared.
“We have been asked for this for some time and then they drop it on us and we can’t ask anything about it,” one resident said.
"Katherine has a lot of people who come and go, have they been tracking them to monitor their health? There’s a lot we’d need to know before we satisfied with that.”
The chairman of the nation’s PFAS expert health panel, Professor Nick Buckley, also attended last night’s meeting.
His panel released its report last month saying there is mostly limited, or in some cases no evidence, that human exposure to PFAS is linked with human disease.
Professor Buckley said he had never been to Katherine before but agreed the scientific evidence on PFAS “was not that good”.
“The evidence was very limited we found,” he said.
“We need to fill that hole in the evidence … we need long-term studies.”
He said on the current evidence there was no consistent evidence that PFAS caused health problems.
Professor Buckley warned Katherine residents returning high PFAS levels on blood tests the chemicals would stay in their bodies a “long, long time”.
The meeting was told Katherine can expect more health warnings on the eating of fish from the river, and home grown food such as eggs, meat and vegetables as a result of the latest PFAS tests.
There is already precautionary advice of eating fish downstream of the high level bridge on the Stuart Highway.
Katherine doctor Dr P.J. Spafford said Katherine now had three unenviable Australian firsts.
The first town to have water restrictions because of PFAS contamination, the first to have its public pool emptied because of PFAS and the town to have residents with the highest PFAS results he can find in the medical literature.
Dr Spafford said much more needed to be done, and more urgently, because of PFAS fears.
He said blood tests, organised and paid for by the Federal Government, were regularly showing high levels of a particular chemical called PFHxS, part of the PFAS family of chemicals used in firefighting foams at the Tindal RAAF Base which have long leached into the Katherine water supply.
He said blood tests of Katherine residents, being paid for by the Federal Government, already show high levels of PFAS which includes PFOS, PFOA. and PFHxS.
“My reading on the internet about PFHxS is concerning and it has been identified as a substance of very high concern because of its bioaccumulation, even more so than PFOS,” Dr Spafford has told Katherine Times.
“We are the only town in the world to have the rates of PFHxS that we have,” Dr Spafford said last night.
He said levels of this and other PFAS chemicals being found in Katherine children were 20 to 30 times that of the normal range.
“These are children from homes in the town, not the bore properties,” he said.
more to come ...