2017 April – FSANZ Lowers PFOS and PFAS safety levels.

FSANZ dramatically lowers safe standards for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water for Williamtown, overturning enHealth decision 3/4/17


AUSTRALIA’S food standards watchdog has chosen to dramatically lower safe limits for toxic firefighting chemicals in drinking water, in a shock verdict that could alter the course of the government’s response to the crisis at Williamtown.

The decision has the potential to see fishing bans reimposed on Hunter waterways and calls into question a 4,000 page Defence report outlining the risks to residents living in the contamination ‘red zone’

The new levels, announced by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) on Monday, will overturn controversial draft standards set by the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) less than 12 months ago.

Under the new rules, the safe combined level of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) will be lowered from .5 to .07 micrograms per litre.

The safe level for sister chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) will be dropped from 5 to .56 micrograms per litre.

Tolerable Daily Intakes (TDIs) for all three chemicals will also be slashed.

The new levels resemble the standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Authority in May last year.

There was outcry from residents when – a month later – enHealth settled on using standards from Europe set in 2007, which were 78 times higher than the US standards.

But in a statement, the Federal Department of Health denied that the about-face indicates the enHealth levels were “wrong”.

“Both sets of values are precautionary and protective of public health,” it said.

“The interim values adopted by enHealth were always intended to be replaced by the final Australian values once FSANZ had completed its work.”

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