Sat. Jun 15th, 2024
alert-–-disturbing-discovery-in-drinking-water-that-could-cause-cancer-–-with-almost-2million-aussies-feared-exposedAlert – Disturbing discovery in drinking water that could cause cancer – with almost 2million Aussies feared exposed

Almost two million ns could have been exposed to cancer-causing chemicals detected in their tap water, a major investigation has uncovered. 

It comes amid growing fears about the long-term impact of so-called ‘forever chemicals’ which can linger for a lifetime in the human body. 

In the last six months, the World Health Organisation has concluded that forever chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is carcinogenic to humans, while the US Environmental Protection Agency found there was no safe level of PFOA or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in water.

But PFOA, which experts believe causes cancer, is currently allowed in ’s drinking water at 140 times the maximum level the US will permit.

A major investigation, carried out by the Sydney Morning Herald, discovered the chemicals were found in tap water in every state and territory across the country since 2010 – affecting up to 1.8million people. 

The investigation, which analysed the latest publicly available data from 2011 and more recent surveys, found the chemicals were detected in the tap water in the Sydney suburbs of North Richmond, Quakers Hill, Liverpool, Blacktown, Emu Plains and Campbelltown.

They were also found in other parts of NSW including Newcastle, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga and Jervis Bay – the latter as recently as last October.

The pollutants were discovered in Canberra, parts of inner-city Melbourne, inner-city Adelaide, Cairns and Gladstone in Queensland, outer suburbs of Hobart and parts of the Northern Territory.

While the last public surveys were conducted over a decade ago, several water providers have carried out their own tests in recent years.

Alarmingly, these surveys found that the chemicals are still present in some of the same locations, sometimes at even higher concentrations.

One of the most worrying readings came in 2020 at the popular tourist destination Norfolk Island, 1,600km north-east of Sydney, where chemicals were discovered at 635 times ‘s safe limit and thousands of times the US enforceable limit.

The now-decommissioned water bore where the pollutants were found supplied the hospital, fire station and public toilets. 

Other concerning readings where water supplies were subsequently decommissioned were the Queensland towns of Ayr, Bundaberg and Macknade.

In the US, the maximum limits of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water is four parts per trillion, whereas in guidelines allow for 560 parts per trillion of PFOA and 70 parts per trillion of PFOS.  

All 23 affected n drinking water providers told the Sydney Morning Herald that their water is safe because levels detected fall within ’s drinking water guidelines.

But Dr Nicholas Chartres, a senior research fellow from the University of Sydney’s faculty of medicine and health, said people in were just as much at risk as those in the US.

‘We’re no different, physiologically,’ Dr Chartres told the paper. 

‘We should have the concern we’re potentially getting exposed to those health effects.’

Dr Chartes called on the n government to bring the country in line with the US’s new regulations. 

Meanwhile, Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a toxic chemicals campaigner who has served on United Nations expert committees, slammed ‘s forever chemical limits as a ‘national disgrace’.

Anthony Amis, from Friends of the Earth, has been analysing the spread of forever chemicals for years. 





Emu Plains




North Richmond 

Quakers Hill

Wagga Wagga 












Riddells Creek





Rottnest Island 



*None of these areas exceed the current permitted levels of the ‘s Drinking Water Guidelines

‘Some of the communities would have been drinking PFAS at dangerous levels for years, and possibly decades,’ Mr Amis said.

‘Why is it that people have been exposed at these levels, without regulatory bodies knowing until very recently?’ 

PFOS was detected at North Richmond as recently as January. It is the only site where Sydney Water regularly tests for PFOS. 

But a Sydney Water spokesperson said there were no known PFAS hotspots in its drinking water catchments.

‘Sydney Water regularly consults with WaterNSW, our raw water supplier, and NSW Health to assess any potential risk of PFAS to Sydney’s drinking water supply,’ they said.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, which develops ‘s Drinking Water Guidelines, is reviewing its recommendations for PFAS in the wake of the US decision to lower its permitted levels.

‘The independent review will consider recent guidance and reviews from international and national jurisdictions and determine whether they are suitable to adopt or adapt for ,’ a Department of Health spokesperson said.

Forever chemicals became ubiquitous since their development in the 1940s, making jackets waterproof, carpets stain-resistant, frying pans non-stick and were used in firefighting foam.

In 2023, manufacturing multinational 3M reached a $10.3bn settlement with US public water bodies in the face of more than 4000 lawsuits filed against 3M and other chemical companies.

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