Aviation Firefighters want their ‘toxic blood’ tested
Update, Monday 4.30pm: AIRSERVICES Australia says that Ballina, Gladstone and Coffs Harbour Airports only used PFC-free fire fighting foams.
Update, Monday 10.20am: AIRSERVICES Australia has responded to the United Firefighters Union's calls for full blood tests for staff at facilities affected by toxic firefighting foams.
The response says that Airservices was "suprised" by the union's media release.
"Airservices announced to its staff last week that it intends to start several new health and wellbeing initiatives for our aviation rescue fire fighting service (ARFF) staff in coming months," a spokeswoman for Airservices said.
"This includes working with the appropriate health authorities to consider a second voluntary health study which may include blood testing.
"The Union has been advised of this announcement and we have indicated to them that we would like them to be involved in this work where appropriate.
"Airservices is aware that two other fire services have announced PFAS related health studies this year.
"Our ARFF service was the first agency to conduct a program of this nature with a health study conducted in 2013 which saw all staff offered voluntary blood testing as part of the program.
"This was a study that the Union fully supported at the time."
Original story, Saturday 4.15pm: IN ITS demands for the full blood tests of staff at several airports, the United Firefighters Union has named Ballina Airport as one of the facilities affected by toxic firefighting foams.
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were widely used at airports across Australia for decades but have in recent years become embroiled in litigation due to claims they are linked to cancers.
The Western Australian Government announced last weekend it would offer full blood testing to its firefighters following a similar announcement by the Queensland Government in May this year.
In a media statement United Firefighters Union Aviation branch secretary Henry Lawrence said the union believed aviation firefighters had much greater exposure to the toxic foam over time.
"Aviation firefighters, past and present need mandatory blood testing as a matter of urgency," Mr Lawrence said.
"They want to know if their blood is toxic so they can manage their health.
"They know they have been highly exposed to PFAS contamination during incidents and training, they know (they) have been soaked to the skin with it on many occasions.
"Airservices must now follow the ethical lead of the Western Australian and Queensland Government's by offering full blood testing and monitoring to Aviation Firefighters.
"Airservices need to understand that there is no hiding from this major public health issue associated with PFAS contamination.
"Instead of blocking our FOI requests to get information on the use of PFAS in at least 26 airports across Australia, Airservices should working with the union to protect the health of firefighters and local communities surrounding those airports."
The Union said airports where firefighting foam containing PFAS has been used included Sydney, Coffs Harbour and Ballina Airports in NSW, and among a number of others - the Gold Coast Airport near the NSW-Qld border.
Also in Qld, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Hamilton Island, Townsville and Cairns airports are believed to be affected.
Airservices Australia has been contacted for comment.