Qantas is now switching from a toxic fire fighting foam for its national operations after an estimated 22,000 litres of chemical spill into the Brisbane River.
The airline’s pressure gauge at a hangar in the city allegedly caused a massive spill in April 2017, due to a malfunction. Around one-third of the spill may have found its way on the local waterway system.
New Foam Material
Qantas said that will use a new fire fighting foam that does not have the PFAS chemical. The company said that it has already repaired the faulty pressure gauge. Spill containment is necessary particularly when you deal with chemical products. In case of these situations, portable bunding could be a good alternative to contain spills whether on land or water.
The airline company had compensated commercial fisheries after the spill led to a fishing ban. Subsequent tests on affected sites showed that “the presence of Pfas from a variety of sources, including sources unrelated to the spill from our hangar earlier this year.” Qantas then intends to use a new foam product, which does not contain Pfas, for its operations nationwide within 12 months.
The Queensland government banned the use of fire fighting foam with Pfas chemicals in July, due to its negative impact on the environment by decomposing slowly. Since the 1950s, it has been used in industrial products and household items such non-stick cooking ware and fabric. While it has not been directly used in consumer products anymore, low levels of Pfas commonly exist in the environment because of previous use.
Andrew Jeremijenko, Queensland GP and specialist in occupational and environmental medicine, said that Qantas’ decision to stop using products with Pfas chemicals should encourage other airlines to do the same.
The Australian government should look further into the possibility of banning Pfas chemicals, as potential spills could inflict significant damage to the environment.