Per-and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs): an epidemiological study

This study will examine the exposure to and potential health effects of per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in the towns of Oakey in Queensland and Williamtown in New South Wales. PFASs are environmentally persistent chemicals that can last for decades in water and soil. Studies in other countries have found some evidence of people exposed to high levels of PFAS having higher risk of some forms of cancer, particularly testicular and renal cancer.

The study is being conducted in two phases:

  • In Phase I of the epidemiological study, the ANU has developed a Study Protocol and is currently conducting a Systematic Review of the literature on the potential health effects associated with exposure to PFAS.
  • Phase II will implement the Study Protocol which will include the following four components:
    • a focus group study to determine the concerns of individuals living in the vicinity of Williamtown and Oakey have in relation to exposure to PFAS and their health;
    • a blood serum study to define the serum concentrations (mean and range) of PFAS in Williamtown and Oakey residents living in the Investigation Areas and to compare the levels to those of people residing in non-contaminated areas in the townships and surrounding areas;
    • a cross-sectional survey to investigate the exposure and risk factors for high serum PFAS levels, including sociodemographic (e.g. age, sex, location) and other factors (e.g. duration of residence in the area, water source), and associations of high serum PFAS levels with common symptoms, signs and diagnosed illnesses in the Williamtown and Oakey communities; and
    • a data linkage study to examine whether sex-specific age adjusted rates of diseases potentially associated with PFAS are higher among people who have lived in the Investigation Areas of Williamtown and Oakey, compared to those living outside the Investigation Areas and in the general Australian population. 

For more information on this project please contact pfas.health.study@anu.edu.au.