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PFAS Class Action

December 10, 2019

American activist and author Erin Brockovich has spoken out against PFAS contamination within Australia. According to Radio National’s Law Report 40,000 people who live and work on land contaminated by the chemical compound PFAS are suing the Australian Government, arguing that their property values have plummeted.

Shine Lawyers are representing the class action and have engaged with Erin Brockovich to be the support and voice of the people. On RN Ms Brockovich said “The science is in on these chemicals. It can cause cancer.” Australian authorities in Canberra have denied this in an inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination, despite Britain, Germany and the US confirming links between PFAS and cancer.

Ms Brockovich is “dumbfounded” by what she considers Australia’s inaction on the issue. “Every one of us has a common bond here, about loving the environment and our family, what we leave, the legacy we leave for our children. We’re destroying that and it’s heartbreaking,” she says.

Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
PFAS are a class of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s. Some PFAS are very effective at resisting heat, stains, grease and water, making them useful chemicals for a range of applications including:
Stain and water protection for carpets, fabric, furniture and apparel
Paper coating (including for some food packaging)
Metal plating
Photographic materials
Aviation hydraulic fluid
Cosmetics and sunscreen
Medical devices.

 

More recently, PFAS have been found to have contaminated sites where there has been historic use of fire-fighting foams that contained PFAS. Over time, these chemicals have worked their way through the soil to contaminate surface and groundwater, and have migrated into surrounding land areas.
The release of PFAS into the environment is a concern, these chemicals are highly persistent, have been shown to be toxic to fish and some animals, and can accumulate in the bodies of fish, animals and people who come into contact with them.
According to the PFAS Government website, ‘The PFAS of greatest concern are highly mobile in water, which means they travel long distances from their source-point; they do not fully break down naturally in the environment; and they are toxic to a range of animals.’
While understanding about the human health effects of long-term PFAS exposure is still developing, there is global concern in regards to the persistence and mobility of these chemicals in the environment. Many countries have discontinued, or are progressively phasing out, their use.
Earlier this year WorkSafe Victoria provided $40,000 to the ETU for testing of people who work at Esso’s Longford gas plant, as well as Bass Strait gas platforms. In an ABC article published April 8th 2019, it reported PFAS was used at Exxon Mobil’s Australian plant at Longford in eastern Victoria, run by subsidiary Esso, for about 40 years until 2008.
For more Health and Safety information on PFAS click here.

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