Australian investigation underscores global health dangers of toxic foam exposure


Australian investigation underscores global health dangers of toxic foam exposure

Patrick Davies

6 July 2018

An investigation by Australia’s Fairfax Media has underscored the potentially deadly consequences of exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals. It documented the existence of a cancer cluster in the US city of Oakdale, Minnesota, close to the global headquarters of chemical manufacturing giant 3M, which produces the substance.

The revelation is a damning indictment of Australian authorities. Since 2012, residents have known that areas around 18 military bases and airports nationally have been contaminated with PFAS chemicals, used in fire-fighting foam.

State and federal governments have rejected demands for financial and medical assistance, claiming there is no clear link between the substance and life-threatening diseases such as cancer.

The Fairfax Media investigation pointed to the fraudulent character of these claims. It showed that 21 children who attended Tartan Senior High, a few blocks from 3M’s Oakdale plant, have suffered cancer. Five have died.

Katie Jurek, the first of the school’s pupils to be diagnosed, died from osteosarcoma in 2007. In addition to four other cancer fatalities since, another 16 students at the school have suffered various forms of the disease since 2002. They were all diagnosed during their high school studies, or in the subsequent 10 years.

The most recent victim, Amara Strande, 16, had a volley-ball sized tumour on her liver. The condition was extremely rare for someone her age.

As the number of cases grew, several parents made inquiries with the Minnesota Department of Health. They were told the numbers were insufficient for a cancer cluster to be declared.

The statistics were eventually examined as part of a lawsuit launched…

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