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Fiskville update #31
As a result of work implementing the recommendations of the Professor Joy Report, we were told in February that testing of flesh from four fish from Lake Fiskville showed they contained PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), a chemical in foams used until 2007.
We immediately reinforced earlier advice that members must not recreationally catch or 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 me that eating the fish would likely increase a person's blood PFOS levels.
Whilst we are not aware of any adverse health effects in those who have eaten fish from Lake Fiskville, we are taking a precautionary approach by offering blood tests, welfare support and access to a health surveillance program if needed. CFA is taking action to remove fish from the lake.
My first priority is to work with employees and their family members, and any others, believed to have eaten the fish, and to take all steps to identify if their exposure poses any health risks and to provide them with the support they may need.
We will continue 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't wait 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.
CFA has received $16.8 million in the recent budget to complete the Fiskville works.
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.