Questions about PFAS exposure in Katherine, Oakey and Williamtown will be the subject of a University of Queensland (UQ) study, with affected residents invited to participate.
In June 2020 the Federal Court approved an historic $212 million class action settlement for PFAS contamination caused by the Commonwealth at Katherine ,Williamtown and Oakey.
Katherine received $92.5 million for the class action over PFAS contamination and payments will be made to more than 2500 people.
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals that are commonly detected in the blood of many people in the general community from food, water, dust and everyday household products including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products, polishes, waxes, paints and cleaning products.
They are also found in the workplace including production facilities or chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery industries that use PFAS and fire-fighting foams.
PFAS chemicals used in firefighting foams at the Tindal RAAF Base between 1988 and 2004 contaminated a groundwater aquifer, tracked under Katherine and into the local river.
The UQ research aims to determine how effective efforts to control exposure to PFAS have been in Katherine, Oakey and Williamtown, and why some people's PFAS levels reduce faster than others.
Professor Jochen Mueller, from UQ's Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS), said the project would evaluate whether PFAS blood concentrations were decreasing as expected in the communities.
"Where we find this is not the case, we want to identify whether there are ongoing sources of exposure and control them," Professor Mueller said.
"People who have previously had their blood collected and analysed for PFAS and have elevated concentrations in their blood are invited to take part."
Participants will be asked to provide one blood sample in 2021 and another in 2023 to measure changes in the concentration of PFAS in the blood over time.
The QAEHS team also hopes to contribute to the broader research into PFAS exposure and the potential association with health issues.
Professor Kelly Fielding said there would be real benefits for the people who join the study as well as to the Australian and international communities more broadly.
"The research can tell us what exposure control measures work, which would be a real help to anyone in Australia who has been exposed to high levels of PFAS."
PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe since the 1940s.
Some communities in Australia have previously been exposed to higher levels of PFAS due to contamination in the environment.
This study is one of several projects funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
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