PFOS and PFOA to be banned in South Australia

Published:  20 February, 2017

Australian state follows Queensland in banning future use of firefighting foams containing certain perfluorinated chemicals and substances.

Environment Minister for South Australia Ian Hunter has announced that the Environment Protection Authority would undertake consultation and work with the industry to determine the best approach for implementation of the ban.

The ban will apply to the use of firefighting foams containing PFOS or PFOA or any other chemicals that degrade to PFOS or PFOA.

While the use of firefighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA have been largely phased out in South Australia, some stockpiles of these foams still exist.

This measure aims to eliminate uncertainty about their future use and potential contamination risks to waterways and groundwater.

“By permanently banning foams containing these chemicals we are sending a clear message that chemical usage that poses a threat to waterways and groundwater will no longer be tolerated in this State,” said Minister Ian Hunter: “I want to reduce any harmful impact on the environment, and any potential harm to South Australians.”

In July last year Queensland published a new operational policy for firefighting foam with highly restrictive management requirements. Queensland, home to the Great Barrier Reef, also requires any existing stocks of foam containing PFOS and PFOA are withdrawn from service and replaced with alternatives.

Perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS), also known as perfluorinated compounds, are manufactured chemicals that do not occur naturally.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are specific types of PFAS that are of emerging concern in Australia and internationally.

In 2010, PFOS was among nine new chemicals added to the Stockholm Convention on the Persistent Organic Pollutants list.

These chemicals had historically been used for a range of industrial applications since the 1950s, mainly in firefighting foams for liquid fires at airports and major hazardous facilities including oil refineries.

PFOS and PFOA have been identified in international studies as the primary PFAS chemicals of concern because of the persistence of firefighting foams entering and potentially contaminating waterways and groundwater.

PFOS and PFOA in firefighting foams in South Australia have been largely phased out and replaced by other chemicals that break down faster.

The South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service has stopped using firefighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA and has replaced them with alternatives.

The South Australian Government will require any existing stocks of foams containing PFOS or PFOA or chemicals that degrade to PFOS or PFOA be withdrawn from use.

Picture credit: State Library of SA

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