What are PFAS?

PFAS are a large group of manufactured compounds that have industrial and consumer applications, often as surfactants, coatings, and treatments to repel oil, grease and water.  They are resistant to heat, water, and oil. There are more than 4,000 such substances, grouped in various subclasses. Some are persistent in the environment and in the human body, and so are of concern nationally and internationally. They are resistant to environmental degradation. They also bioaccumulate in the tissues of living organisms for long periods of time.

In 2017, the Ministry for the Environment – Manatū Mō Te Taiao – began an all-of-Government programme to help councils and landowners to investigate the extent of PFAS contamination in New Zealand, and to guide them on managing this emerging contaminant.  Crown sites such as Airforce bases that historically used fluorinated firefighting foams, undertook investigations.  Some regional councils also undertook investigations into PFAS to better understand the sites that may pose a risk to their communities, alongside other contaminated land issues.  More information about this work is available at: https://environment.govt.nz/publications/pfas-per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances/    

Officials from the Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora – supported this work.  A series of fact sheets were provided to general practitioners. These were updated in August 2023:

  • PFAS and human health – Summary for GPs
  • PFAS– Information for GPs
  • Serum testing for PFAS
  • PFAS and human health – frequently asked questions.