Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Contamination in the Indoor Environment and its Contribution to Human Exposure in Aqueous Film Forming Foam Impacted Communities

National Health and Medical Research Council

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of more than 5,000 man-made chemicals that have been used in various consumer and industrial products because of their water and oil-resistant properties. Due to these properties, PFAS is a key ingredient in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which is a type of foam used to fight liquid fires, such as fuel fires, and has been used since 1970 in Australian military air bases, civilian air services, and firefighting stations. However, it has recently been linked to different health problems including immunotoxicity, cancer, toxic liver disease, and neurodevelopmental problems.

Similarly, Perfuloro-n-octane-sulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluoro-n-octanoic acid (PFOA) are synthetic chemicals that are used to make products resistant to stains, grease, soil, and water. Historically, PFOS and PFOA were used in AFFF, however numerous studies conducted since the 1990s have identified these chemicals as the cause of numerous health concerns. In response to PFOA stewardship program, it was determined that legacy AFFF, under certain environmental conditions, can transform into PFAS. AFFF was found to enter the surrounding environment via soil, water bodies, air, and dust and repeated use of AFFF can increase the exposure of the communities living near the activity sites to excessive amounts of PFAS. The possible transformation of PFAS precursors may have contributed to the contamination of their indoor environment. Therefore, this project aims to collect indoor matrices, for example, air and dust including hand wipes and glass fiber filter paper, from AFFF-impacted communities to determine the extent of exposure to PFAS. It will also be assessed whether these indoor environments are contributing to human exposure to PFAS.

Project members

Dr Xianyu (Fisher) Wang

Senior Research Fellow

Zubaria Ishaq

PhD Candidate