State government ‘cannot ban PFAS chemicals’: environment minister Gabrielle Upton

LABOR has slammed State Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton over claims the NSW gornment “cannot” ban the chemicals at the centre of the Williamtown contamination scandal. 

Responding to questions about whether NSW would follow Queensland and South Australia in banning PFAS chemicals, Ms Upton said the Berejiklian government was unable to do so.

“This government cannot ban PFAS,” Ms Upton said. 

“The responsibility for that lies directly at the feet of the federal government and the things it has done.”

The Environment Minister also claimed the state government had been doing a lot of work when it came to PFAS despite it being a federal issue.

“In those areas where PFAS substances have been unearthed as a potential contaminant of our environment, we have done some important work,” she said.

Australia is one of only a handful of countries not to have banned PFAS chemicals, a precedent Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said the government should follow. 

“Other Australian states have banned PFAS along with 171 other countries around the world. Why won’t the Minister ban these toxic chemicals in NSW?

“In Williamtown, the PFAS contamination has been a cloud over my community for almost 3 years now, and still this Minister refuses to act.”

Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe called for a better explanation of why a ban was not possible.

Developed by US company 3M, PFAS chemicals have been used in non-stick cookware, Scotchguard and some types of fire-fighting foam.

There is an increasing concern about the health effects of the chemicals, especially after Fairfax Media revealed a school near the 3M headquarters has seen at least 21 cases where students had contracted a cancer-related disease.

NSW Health has said there is “no consistent evidence” that PFAS exposure can affect people’s health.

“Studies on PFAS workers have looked for effects on cholesterol levels, male hormones, heart disease, liver changes and other effects, including cancer,” NSW Health said.

“These studies have not consistently shown that PFAS exposure is linked to health problems.”

However, the US Environmental Protection Agency said they “can cause can cause immune dysfunction, hormonal interference and certain types of cancer”.

with Matt Carr

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