Read the full article by Tracy Ferrier (The Rural)

“There’s an uncomfortable truth among experts who study a vast family of toxic, long-lived but widely used chemicals called PFAS.

It’s that no-one knows how many there are, let alone the scope of their impacts on human and environmental health.

The Australian government, in its public health advice, talks about ‘more than 4000’. The National Measurement Institute recently told a contamination conference it’s more like 12,000.

Other researchers say it could be much higher because once PFAS chemicals are out in the world, they can create complex mixtures of intentionally-produced and unintentionally-generated PFAS compounds.

One certainty is that the man-made chemicals are now whirling around the planet and present in the bodies of pretty much every human, even those yet to be born.

Less than a fortnight ago, a team of researchers announced PFAS chemicals were detected in literally all of the 30,000 umbilical cord blood samples used in 40 different studies over the last five years.

After more than 50 years of broad use, in everything from food packaging and cookware to paint and industrial products, PFAS chemicals are now ubiquitous.

At a recent conference in Adelaide, distinguished veteran science writer Julian Cribb described a global chemical ‘tsunami’ in which PFAS features heavily.

‘They travel on the wind, in water, attached to soil particles, in dust, in plastic fragments, in wildlife, in food, drink and trade goods, in and on people.

‘They combine and recombine with one another, and with naturally occurring substances, giving rise to generations of new compounds, some more toxic, others less so. Most totally unknown.

‘They leapfrog around the planet in cycles of absorption and re-release known as the grasshopper effect.’

With the genie out of the bottle, and no way to put it back, nations are left to figure out what the health consequences might be, how to manage existing contamination, and how to turn off the tap.

Within that context, the federal government has just released the third version of its national plan to manage environmental risks in Australia.

The draft opens with an acknowledgement of the PFAS family’s unusual chemical properties, of the ‘uncertainties associated with potential risks’, and the need for a precautionary approach.

The purpose of the document is to provide practical guidance on the management of PFAS, with a focus on preventing and managing contamination.” …