Toxic chemicals used in firefighting have been found in the water at Jervis Bay ahead of peak holiday season.
SMH reports the pollution has come from the use of fire retardants, containing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS), at nearby military bases: HMAS Creswell and the Jervis Bay Range Facility.
Marys Creek has been totally closed to human use and people have also been warned against eating seafood from Flat Rock Creek, Captains’ Lagoon and Summercloud Creek.
Despite the Department of Health’s denial that the chemicals cause health effects in humans, the United States has warned there is evidence to indicate PFAS can have an adverse effect on the immune system, hormones and possibly cause cancer.
Traces of the chemical were also found in Lake Windermere, which the Jervis Bay township draws its water from, but authorities say the concentrations were very far below safe guidelines.
Brisbane-based environmental medicine expert Dr Andrew Jeremijenko told SMH there was evidence PFAS exposure was linked to decreased fertility and low birth weight in newborns.
“If I was taking my pregnant girlfriend or wife there I would be careful,” he said.
“They are more at risk because you need a smaller dose to get the effect and there’s still a lot of unknowns.”
He also warned tourists who regularly visit the area should be wary, as the chemicals can take years to leave the human body.
The chemicals have also been found in Wreck Bay, which is home to an Aboriginal settlement.
Jack Hampton, an Aboriginal resident of Jervis Bay Village and former firefighter, told SMH he wasn’t sure if the warnings would have an impact on tourist numbers.
“It probably scares people away a bit,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be coming here if I was on holidays, I would be going somewhere else.”
Hampton also said he was desperate to get a blood test which would determine if he has been exposed to the chemicals.
He said he was furious when officials told him residents would not be tested, despite people living elsewhere in Australia receiving the tests.
“As you know, Aboriginal people only have a short lifespan and this may be making it shorter.
“We’ve all been let down.”