“A Manawatū farmer says his community wants easier access to a blood test for toxic chemicals from firefighting foam, but the Health Ministry is telling them not to bother.

The groundwater around defence bases including Ōhakea in Manawatū have been contaminated with toxic and long-lasting firefighting foam chemicals.

The PFAS class of chemicals – of which PFOS and PFOA are banned in New Zealand – accumulate in the body over time. They are increasingly linked in overseas studies to environmental and health risks.

The US Agency for Toxic Substances said the effect of the chemicals was not certain but it could increase the risk of cancer, decrease fertility and cause problems with fetus development…

The ministry put out a statement yesterday clarifying that there are free blood tests available for people in contamination zones, but the ministry has previously downplayed the necessity of blood testing for the chemicals.

Yesterday, director of public health Caroline McElnay put out a statement saying individual blood testing was not recommended because it could not give a likely cause for a current health condition. It also said tests would also not reliably predict sickness and could mislead a person about their exposure to PFAS.

However, Ōhakea farmer Andy Russell said what tests could do was reveal how much PFAS a person had in their blood.

‘It sounds like absolute nonsense,’ he said of the ministry’s statement. ‘It’s the number-one concern of the residents.’

Mr Russell, who lives outside the contamination zone but farms within it, heads a group of concerned residents and said people wanted to know what was in their blood so they could manage any exposure.”

Read the full article by Phil Pennington.