Fluoride Action Network

Fiskville fire training centre cancer concerns to be investigated

Source: ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) | December 9th, 2014
Location: Australia
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

The Fiskville fire training facility in Victoria is to be the subject of a joint parliamentary committee investigation into concerns firefighters were exposed to toxic chemicals between 1970 and 1990.

More than a dozen people linked to the Fiskville site have died of cancer, including whistleblower Brian Potter, a former fire chief who suffered from a series of cancers over a period of 15 years.

A report by Professor Robert Joy in 2012 confirmed firefighters were exposed to chemicals through water used in training, but also declared the facility safe and said the risk of getting cancer was low.

The report found the Country Fire Authority (CFA) did not act quickly enough to address concerns about the chemical exposure.

The United Firefighters Union said that report only covered events up to 1999 and did not address more recent concerns.

Premier Daniel Andrews said Fiskville was a cause of “significant concern” to those who trained there and those who still work there today.

He said the inquiry would go back as far as the 1970s to find out exactly what went on.

“So that our dedicated, our brave and courageous firefighters know and understand exactly what they’ve been exposed to exactly what that exposure means for them now and into the future,” he said.

Announcing the terms of reference, the Premier said the inquiry would be formed as soon as Parliament resumed.

Firefighters ‘vindicated in pursuit of truth’

It will also examine the health effects on employees, nearby residents and visitors to the site who were exposed to toxic smoke and chemicals.

The committee’s recommendations will focus on mitigating harm, providing compensation to victims and their families and decontaminating the training site.

Mr Andrews said the committee would deliver an interim report by June and the final report by December next year.

Peter Marshal, the national secretary of the United Firefighters Union, welcomed the investigation and said it vindicated the campaign by firefighters to “pursue the truth about what happened at Fiskville”.

He said they knew that in the early 1990s the CFA was told the chemicals they were using for hot fire training could cause cancer.

“That information was not passed on to employees,” he said.

“Who suppressed that information? Why did they make that decision and why did they allow firefighters to train in that environment.”