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EPA’s organisational strategy sets out five goals and how we'll work with Victorians to achieve them.
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Over the past year, a key focus for EPA has been understanding the extent and characteristics of emerging contaminants in the Victorian environment.
There are many chemicals in common use which find their way into the environment and are considered contaminants of emerging concern, such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.
Emerging contaminants are a key focus because the risk they pose to our health and the environment is not yet fully understood. To help address the broad range of contaminants in the environment, EPA has undertaken sampling of fresh and marine waters, sediment and soils at 50 sites across the state. This ambient assessment program will provide evidence to inform regulatory actions for emerging contaminants based on our understanding of their presence in the Victorian environment and thus potential for community exposure.
EPA has also continued to lead the way in the prevention and management of environmental and human health impacts associated with a particular group of manufactured chemicals known as PFAS. Used for decades in a range of products, including pesticides, stain repellents and firefighting foams, PFAS are of concern to the environment and human health because they persist in the environment and are resistant to normal environmental breakdowns.
During August and September 2017, EPA Victoria, under the direction of the Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand (HEPA), led an extensive consultation process to assist with the development of a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP). Calls for feedback from industry and the community resulted in more than 180 responses, including more than 80 submissions.
Now finalised, the NEMP represents a how-to guide for the investigation and management of PFAS contamination and provides Australia with a consistent, practical, risk-based framework for the environmental regulation of PFAS contaminated materials and sites. It describes PFAS compounds and their many sources, requirements for the management of contaminated sites, how best to manage PFAS-contaminated waste (including contaminated soils) and summarises treatment technologies that may be available in Australia.
Future work and research activities around PFAS will feature the study of PFAS precursors and behaviours, the development of Australian guidelines for wildlife food and water quality, considering multigenerational effects, and understanding PFAS sediment concentrations on aquatic biota.
EPA’s leadership role in the development of the NEMP is an example of us taking active steps to prevent and manage the environmental and human health impacts associated with emerging contaminants and working together with government, industry and community stakeholders on a national scale.
PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in firefighting foams and other industrial and consumer products for many decades. There are over 3000 individual PFA substances; the two most well studied are PFOS (perfluorooctane sulphonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). There is worldwide concern about PFAS due to their wide use, environmental persistence, and chemical properties that allow easy movement through the environment and bioaccumulation through the food chain.
All of us are exposed to small amounts of PFAS in everyday life. This is through exposure to dust, indoor and outdoor air, food, water and contact with consumer products that contain PFAS, such as outdoor gear (such as waterproof clothing), new carpets and cookware. This explains why there are background levels of these chemicals found in people who have no occupational exposure to PFAS (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry 2015).
PFAS National Management Plan
EPA led an extensive consultation process to assist with the development of the National Management Plan.
Over 180 responses were received, including more than 80 submissions.
The plan provides Australia’s state and territory governments with a consistent, practical, risk-based framework for the environmental regulation of PFAS-contamined materials and sites.
Did you know?
PFAS accumulate in the bodies of animals and concentrations can increase significantly in the tissues of animals higher up in the food chain.
PFAS accumulate in the bodies of animals, particularly those that breathe air and consume fish, and concentrations increase significantly in the tissues of animals higher up in food chains.
EPA is committed to conducting further investigations to better understand the risks of exposure to PFAS. With the support of EPA’s Chief Environmental Scientist, EPA is leading work to better understand PFAS, in addition to other emerging contaminants of concern.
Keeping community safe with public health advice
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Page last updated on 31 Dec 2018