Fire Fighting Foam Contamination and Health

Eels in two South Taranaki streams have been found to have elevated levels of chemicals associated with firefighting foam. The two streams, the Oaonui and the much shorter Ngapirau are located near Opunake. Iwi and local residents have been notified by the Taranaki Regional Council.

It is believed that the contamination came from the historical use of fire fighting foams containing these chemicals at the Maui Production Station and the nearby firefighting training site run by the Wood Group which are adjacent to these two streams.

For more information on the environmental testing carried out in Taranaki by the Taranaki Regional Council go to “Investigation puts focus on two streams” https://www.trc.govt.nz/council/news-and-events/council-news/investigation-puts-focus-on-two-streams/

 

What were the fire fighting foam chemicals found in the eels?

The fire fighting foam chemicals are from a category known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals take a long time to break down in the environment.

PFAS are a large group of man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. They have been used in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil. 

All New Zealanders are expected to have some PFAS in their blood given the widespread use of PFAS since the 1950s. 

 

Health effects

The health effects of these chemicals are uncertain. Currently there is no consistent evidence that the low level environmental exposures cause harmful health effects. However the ability of these compounds to be stored in the body increases concerns about the possible effects on human health. The main routes of exposure are through drinking water or eating food contaminated with PFAS.

It is recommended that people do not eat fish or eels from the Oaonui and Ngapirau streams.

 

More information

For information on PFAS and health go to http://www.mfe.govt.nz/land/pfas-and-poly-fluoroalkyl-substances/health.

The Taranaki District Health Board is working with the Taranaki Regional Council, Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to provide public health advice on this contamination event.

To get the latest information on what is happening in Taranaki go to the Taranaki Regional Council webpage www.trc.govt.nz/pfas-investigation

 

Contact

Please contact Taranaki DHB Public Health on 0508 834 274 (freephone) or email Health.Protection@tdhb.org.nz if you regularly eat fish or eels from the Oaonui or Ngapirau streams and are worried about your health.

 

Last updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2018

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