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Government lowers safe exposure levels of toxic chemicals in water

The Federal Government has significantly lowered the safe exposure level of toxic chemicals used in some firefighting foam, following a number of groundwater contaminations across the country.

The announcement included adjusting the maximum tolerable daily intake (TDI) of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) from 150NG/kg of body weight per day to 20NG/kg, and the maximum TDI of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from to 160NG.

The maximum TDI of PFOS in drinking water has been reduced from 0.5µg to 0.07 µg/L, and 5µg to 0.56 for PFOA toxins.

The pollutants have been detected at up to 300 times the old safe levels near multiple Australian airports and Royal Australian Air Force bases.

Residents of both Oakey in Queensland and Williamtown in New South Wales, areas significantly affected by the chemicals, have launched class action lawsuits against the Department of Defence.

The new standards were set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, who were contracted as a consultant by the Australian Government.

However, Food Standards have been unable to conclusively determine regulatory options for safe PFOS levels in food, due to a lack of research on the long-term effects of the chemical in food.

“It’s not a standard, and food can still be sold in the marketplace,” said the Northern Territory Director of Environmental Health Xavier Schobben.

An Environment Protection Authority summit is under to develop a national PFAS management plan.