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CFA acts on early test results
CFA is offering health checks to any people who may have eaten fish caught as part of recreational activities from the lake at CFA Training College Fiskville. The lake contains residues from firefighting foams previously used in training.
As a result of work implementing the recommendations of the Professor Joy Report, CFA was told in February that testing of flesh from four fish in the lake showed it contained PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), a chemical in foams used until 2007.
CFA immediately reinforced earlier advice that members must not eat fish from the lake and also erected “no fishing” signs. Eminent toxicologist Dr Roger Drew was asked to undertake analysis of the possible effects of consuming fish. Late last week he advised CFA that eating the fish would likely increase a person’s blood PFOS levels. CFA is taking action to remove fish from the lake.
CFA CEO Mick Bourke said CFA is not aware of any adverse health effects in those who have eaten fish from Lake Fiskville and is taking a precautionary approach by offering blood tests and welfare support. Access to a health surveillance program will also be provided, if needed.
“CFA’s first priority is working with employees and their family members believed to have eaten the fish, and we will take all steps to identify if their exposure poses any health risks and to provide them with the support they may need,” Mr Bourke said.
“We’re continuing the work prompted by Professor Joy’s findings, including human health risk assessments which we expect to be finished later this year. However, I felt we couldn’twait until then to tell our people what we know now about the fish.”
Advice regarding exposure to PFOS suggests the chemical enters the blood and remains for a substantial period. At elevated concentrations it may change blood cholesterol and blood lipids, which are indicators of risk for cardiovascular disease.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says “human studies to date are insufficient to determine with a sufficient degree of certainty that the effects are either exposure-related or adverse”.
Background levels of PFOS are found in most people and have been used in household products for decades including carpet stain repellents, cleaners, make-up and shaving cream.
Advice to CFA is that the risks are confined to those eating fish from Lake Fiskville and it is very unlikely there would be any health effect for those coming into contact with the water. Lake water is not used for firefighter training. CFA switched from dam water to town mains water for training in June 2012.
Anyone who believes they have eaten fish from Lake Fiskville is urged to call: 1800 628 616.
The $16.8 million recently committed by the Victorian Government will ensure the work which needs to be done at Fiskville, can be completed.
Mr Bourke said Fiskville remains safe for staff, trainees and visitors and CFA continues to work closely with WorkSafe and the Environment Protection Authority. Former Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe is providing oversight as Independent Monitor.