Retired medic worried about toxic firefighting foam

He is concerned about his exposure during training and that the material made its way into the base's drinking-water supply


OAKEY, Australia — A retired army medic is mad he wasn’t told of health concerns about firefighting foam he was regularly soaked in during response training.

The Chronicle reported that the man, who didn’t want to be named, was in charge of a crash rescue medic team.

Last year, the Australian Department of Defense held a community information session on the potential effects of firefighting foam chemicals, which had leaked from the base into the underground water supply.

He said he found out about the groundwater investigation earlier this month.

"I used to be drenched in that stuff," he said. "I was told it was safe."

He and his fellow medics would be at least waist deep in the foam during rescue training drills.

"You could be in it for two hours. If you questioned anything, I remember the firefighters saying 'it is just like washing detergent.'"

The former medic said he would like to have blood tests done, similar to affected residents, to help determine if the exposure had affected him, according to the report.

He was also concerned about the water his family drank, bathed and swam in at the base.

A Defense spokeswoman said former personnel and their families who lived on base were unlikely to have experienced high exposure to the chemicals through drinking contaminated groundwater or by being exposed to the foam.

"Defense is unable to confirm the practice of disposing of firefighting chemicals between 1988 and 2004," she said. "Defense can advise, however, that since the construction of a purpose-built firefighting pad in 2004, all firefighting chemicals have been captured in a storage tank and removed for processing by a private contractor."

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