What are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS and PFOA)?
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS and PFOA) are a group of chemical compounds that have been used since the 1950s to make products that are resistant to heat, stains, grease and water.
They have been used in a range of household items like non-stick pans, paints and lacquers, makeup, personal care products and cleaning products.
They have also been used in industrial products, including metal plating and firefighting foams.
The historical use of the firefighting foam between the 1970s and 2000 has left traces of PFAS at several Defence Force bases around New Zealand.
Use of PFAS in firefighting
The New Zealand Defence Force has advised they have not been supplied any firefighting foam products containing PFAS and PFOA above trace levels since 2002.
Government agencies are working to fully understand the extent and possible impact of the problem.
The New Zealand Defence Force has completed preliminary investigations at the Whenuapai Air Base and the Devonport Naval Base for the presence of PFAS.
PFAS investigations around Auckland
This investigation is part of a larger programme of work, which is overseen by an all of government group led by the Ministry for the Environment.
The Defence Force is testing ground and surface water for the presence of PFA compounds at some properties neighbouring Whenuapai Air Base, and at nearby coastal areas.
Testing around Whenuapai Air Base
All the affected property owners have been contacted for permission for this testing to take place.
Initial tests at Devonport Naval Base found PFAS compounds at sampled sites, including in mangroves, but they were well below guideline levels.
Testing around Devonport Naval Base
The area’s drinking water comes from the town supply and is not affected.
The Defence Force has also carried out preliminary testing on sediment and marine life at Ngataringa Bay, which is being analysed for the presence of PFAS.
The Ministry of Health has advised that there is no acute health risk from exposure to PFAS compounds.
There is currently no consistent evidence that environmental exposures to PFOA cause adverse human health effects.
Further information about PFAS
Information about PFAS and the government’s response to this issue, including health and food safety advice, is available on the Ministry for the Environment website