People have been warned not to go fishing or eat seafood caught near Brisbane airport after a dangerous firefighting foam leaked into the water last Monday causing the deaths of at least 20 fish in the area.
The foam leak occurred as a result of a faulty sprinkler system at a Qantas hangar in the airport with 22,000 litres of foam being released in the incident. About three-quarters of the foam was contained with the remainder leaking into the airport's stormwater system and surrounding waterways.
The foam contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a substance currently being phased out for use in Queensland. The toxic chemicals contained within the foam don't break down well in the environment or in the human body, and are thought to be linked to a range of human health effects, including cancer, liver and kidney disease and developmental issues.
Use of the substance is currently being phased out throughout Queensland. Tenants at Brisbane Airport, such as airlines, fuel suppliers and airservices, however, are still permitted to use the foam as airports are considered to be commonwealth land and not subject to state regulations.
The warnings affect fish caught in Bulimba Creek, Brisbane River, Nudgee Beach and Shorncliffe.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeanette Young, has reiterated the importance of not eating seafood caught in the area.
“I recommend people avoid eating seafood that was caught in the potentially contaminated area until the results of environment department testing are known,” Dr Young said. “While there is currently no consistent evidence that PFOA exposure causes adverse health harm in humans, I understand this was a significant spill.”
Qantas is reported to be working with Brisbane Airport on the cleanup and investigation of the incident.