PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of human-made chemicals that have been widely used in industrial and consumer products since the mid-1900s.

PFAS are of concern because they can persist for a long time in humans and in the environment. These substances are now commonly detected at trace levels in groundwater, surface water and soils in urban areas worldwide.

The Australian Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) states that for most people, the level of exposure to PFAS is likely to be small. No public health and safety issues with PFAS have been identified from the overall dietary exposure for the general Australian population.

To ensure the safety of drinking water and provide a basis for determining the quality of water supplied to consumers in all parts of Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has developed the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. The Guidelines are underpinned by available scientific evidence and are used by state and territory health departments, drinking water regulators, local health authorities and water utilities.

Australia’s drinking water guidelines for PFAS are currently being reviewed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). This independent review will consider recent guidance and reviews from international and national jurisdictions and determine whether they are suitable to adopt or adapt for Australia.

In consultation with drinking water regulators, water utilities apply a preventative risk-based approach to the management of drinking water quality. Water utilities routinely conduct a range of tests to ensure drinking water quality complies with the Guidelines. As with other threats to water safety, based on the different risks of PFAS in different areas, PFAS testing will vary across water utilities and locations.

The most effective way to limit PFAS in drinking water is to identify potential point sources of contamination within drinking water catchments, and then work with relevant stakeholders to put in place effective control measures. Governments and industry continue to work together to look at ways to identify and control PFAS at their source. 

The water sector manages hazards in wastewater and associated risks to public health and the environment. The use of PFAS in everyday household items and consumer products is a challenge for wastewater systems and existing conventional treatment processes. The most effective way to limit PFAS in wastewater is to reduce the potential sources of contamination before they enter the wastewater system. While solids and liquid treatment technologies exist to reduce PFAS, most current wastewater treatment plants do not reduce PFAS in the incoming wastewater. Governments and industry continue to work together to look at ways to identify and control PFAS at their source. 

The water sector is committed to ensuring the provision of safe and secure drinking water to customers and communities, and that biosolids are used in the best and safest way possible.


If you have a media inquiry about PFAS please contact Danielle Francis on 0427 021 115 or email


AuthorWater Services Association of Australia
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