2018/19 – Largs North Fire Station (South Australia) – PFAS in Firefighters

Reporter’s notebook: PFAS conference unveils global perspective


Date: June 17, 2019

Selected comment by a reporter attending the Second National Conference on PFAS chemicals at North-eastern University in Boston June 10th -12th 2019

‘Krystle Mitchell, with South Australia’s Metropolitan Fire Service, flew from across the world to explain how they’d found high levels of PFAS in the eggs of chickens raised near remote fire stations, unknowingly chowed down on by protein-hungry first responders’

PP Presentation ‘PFAS and South Australia’ Krystle Mitchell South Australia Metropolitan Fire Service -Special Operations Department

Largs Fire Station

Sample type Concentration Range
Soil 2.3 – 126 ppb
Dust 340 – 4,400 ppb
Tap Water (Drinking Water) <0.01 ppb
Fruit 0.6 – 11.8 ppb
Foliage 5 – 310 ppb
Egg yolk (not white) 338 – 1,800 ppb
Fire appliance 0.02 – 0.07 ppb
Gallantry (Fire Vessel)** <0.01 – 3,280 ppb
Groundwater (not accessible to FF’s) 0.02 – 220 ppb

** Not located at fire station

Largs North fire station to remain open after site-based firefighters return high levels of toxic PFAS chemicals

Dec 8 2018: The Advertiser. https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/largs-north-fire-station-to-remain-open-after-sitebased-firefighters-return-high-levels-of-toxic-pfas-chemicals/news-story/2a7831cc965c4b8ef6041f369b528685

Largs North fire station will not shut down temporarily, despite potentially deadly toxins being detected in the blood of nearly half of the firefighters based at the station.

Of the 20 crew members based at the station, nine have extremely high levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) in their blood while two others returned above-normal results.

PFAS is used in firefighting foam and has been linked to cancer in overseas studies.

Earlier this year, SA became the first state to ban the use of PFAS firefighting foams through legislation.

MFS assistant chief fire officer Roy Thompson said nine firefighters returned “concerning” samples containing more than 100ng/ml – one as high as 470ng/ml.

However, Mr Thompson said there was “virtually no risk” of further contamination and that the station would continue operating as normal.

He said crew members likely became contaminated through a garden patch used to grow fresh fruit and vegetables at the rear of the compound.

Chickens are kept on site to lay eggs.

“(The firefighters) are concerned but they’ve had a lot of their fear allayed now that they understand what the risks actually are,” he said.

“If there is anything it would be in the groundwater or the soil.

“That basically means don’t eat any vegetables that might be grown in that.”

Recent blood tests by the MFS of 215 firefighters found 84 returned above-average levels of PFAS.

Contaminations have previously been detected at Adelaide station, Oakden station, Angle Park training Centre, on some appliances and at Adelaide and Oakden dams.

All sites are now within accepted safety limits.

Mr Thompson said soil and groundwater at Largs North station would be tested on Tuesday. The station building and equipment including trucks and boats have returned negative readings for PFAS.

“We will have those results back before Christmas and we’ll know if there’s any contamination at the site,” Mr Thompson said.

He said it was unclear why Largs North firefighters tested positive at such a concentrated level.

Blood testing on former and current staff has been extended until June 30.

Most of those 215 already tested have volunteered to be part of a national trial to uncover how PFAS levels can be reduced.