Williamtown family shocked by levels of toxic firefighting chemicals in baby's blood

IN THE FIRING LINE: William Kelly is 10 months old and already has levels of firefighting chemicals in his blood three times higher than his mother Samantha. The distraught family plan to abandon their home. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
IN THE FIRING LINE: William Kelly is 10 months old and already has levels of firefighting chemicals in his blood three times higher than his mother Samantha. The distraught family plan to abandon their home. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Like any new parents, Samantha and Jamie Kelly are smitten with their 10-month-old son William.

Every meal he eats is home cooked. Every dummy he sucks on is sterilized.

So it was a devastating blow as they sat in their GP’s office on the weekend and were told their beautiful little boy had ‘significant’ levels of toxic firefighting chemicals in his blood.

“It was gut wrenching,” Mr Kelly said. “We had tears in the doctor’s room.” 

Their GP told them if the child was his, he wouldn’t take him home to their property on the outskirts of the Williamtown ‘red zone’. 

But the distraught couple needed little convincing.

“It was a no-brainer. William proved that you could do everything the experts told you and it would still contaminate your children. We needed to leave because the only other thing we could do was to stop him breathing the air,” Ms Kelly said. 

The couple will sell some of their possessions so that they can afford to abandon their mortgaged property on Cabbage Tree Road. 

“We’ve been advised that it would be impossible to sell our house, or at least very unlikely,” Mr Kelly said. 

They have already begun applying for rental properties in Newcastle and plan to lease their home at Williamtown; but with “full disclosure” and to a tenant “without children”. 

Although the family do not wish to have the exact numbers disclosed, Samantha returned the lowest reading of the trio. Her son William was three times higher, and her husband Jamie seven times.

The couple had been living in Williamtown for about two years and were four months into their pregnancy when news of the contamination leaking from the RAAF base was made public.

But they were reassured by health authorities there was no risk to their unborn baby as long as they followed precautions; don’t drink contaminated water, don’t eat the seafood or the eggs from backyard chickens. 

Mr Kelly said the couple went “above and beyond” the advice “to the point of paranoia”. 

What left the family even more flummoxed was that their home is hooked up to town water and a test on their bore returned a negative result. 

”The only conclusion is it must be in the household dust and he is being exposed through hand-to-mouth contact,” Mr Kelly said. 

“We’re not saying there are definitely health effects but we as parents have the right to keep it out of his body.”

They said they would suffer a significant financial loss as a result of their decision and hoped they would be compensated through the class action. 

“But no amount of money will ever compensate us for the exposure in the first 10 months of Will’s life.”