30th November 2016
Voluntary blood testing available for people in Oakey and Williamtown
A voluntary blood testing program for residents who live close to Australian Defence bases at Oakey and Williamtown begins on 30 November 2016, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy announced today.
The Australian Government is investing $55 million to address contamination at Defence bases and in surrounding communities from the chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or PFAS as they are collectively known, which was used in fire-fighting foam at the Defence bases over a number of years.
While there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes health problems in humans, as part of the response to community concerns, the Government is funding a Voluntary Blood Testing Program, as well as pre- and post-blood test counselling, to ensure people are fully informed on what the result means for them and their families.
“The Voluntary Blood Testing Program will run concurrently with an epidemiological study and free blood testing will be available to eligible people until 31 March 2018,” Professor Murphy said.
“A single voluntary PFAS blood test will be made available for those people who live or work, or have lived or worked, in the investigation areas of Williamtown and Oakey. This includes people currently living elsewhere who previously lived or worked at these places.
“Where individual consent is provided, the results of voluntary blood testing will be included as a key component of the epidemiological study also being undertaken in the affected communities of Williamtown and Oakey.”
Professor Murphy said that a positive blood test for PFAS contaminants will not indicate, by itself, any harm to people’s health and so it is important that as many residents as possible who choose to have their blood tested also participate in the longer term epidemiological study.
“This will ensure that the findings of the study are comprehensive and contribute to improving our understanding of the potential effects following exposure to these substances,” he said.
The Voluntary Blood Testing Program and the epidemiological study will be conducted in the Oakey and Williamtown investigation areas because the extent of contamination and the exposure pathways are well understood. This is not the case for other sites where PFAS have been detected as the extent of contamination is still to be determined.
The Australian Government has funded additional mental health and counselling services in the Williamtown and Oakey communities to support these communities during this period of uncertainty.
People do not need to have had a PFAS blood test to access these mental health services. A GP can refer individuals to appropriate mental health and counselling services in the Williamtown and Oakey regions.
Eligible people who are interested in having a blood test should consult with their local GP. Further information about the program can be found at http://www.health.gov.au/pfas.
Media contact: Kay McNiece, 0412 132 585