Event date: 18 February 2019

Per-and poly-fluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS) contamination is currently of major environmental and public concern worldwide. Due to their wide use, environmental persistence, and chemical properties PFAS move easily though the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain. All of us are exposed to small amounts of PFAS in everyday life. This is through exposure to dust, indoor and outdoor air, food, water and contact with consumer products that contain PFAS, such as outdoor gear (such as waterproof clothing), new carpets and cookware. 

Understanding the chemical nature of these compounds is critical for both establishing sources of contamination, monitoring and informing remediation as well as understanding impacts on the environment and public health. As a regulator EPA is working on a number of projects to understand the spatial extent and magnitude of PFAS contamination in Victoria. 

For this Environmental Science Series event, Professor Jochen Mueller of University of Queensland joined us to explore the knowns and unknowns of PFAS. He provided background on the current knowledge about exposure, bioaccumulation and potential associations with health effects. 

Speaker bio: Professor Jochen Mueller

Professor Jochen Mueller grew up in rural Germany near a cable waste incinerator that emitted dioxins.  He studied fate and exposure to dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants during a Master’s Degree (University Hohenheim) and PhD (Griffith University).

Professor Mueller became a Fellow of the Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Queensland (former National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (Entox)) in 1997 where he established a research group that focuses on exposure to chemical pollutant including the development of novel approaches for exposure monitoring. His team commenced work on PFAS in 2004 and have demonstrated that exposure to various PFAS has substantially decreased over the last decade(s).

Professor Mueller’s work has received support from ARC and numerous industry partners.

Speaker bio: Dr Andrea Hinwood

Dr Andrea Hinwood was appointed as Victoria's first Chief Environmental Scientist in 2017.

Dr Hinwood is an accomplished environmental scientist with specialist expertise in environmental exposures and human health.

Dr Hinwood was previously an Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University and held appointments as a member and Deputy Chair of the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia and a sessional member of the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia. 

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Reviewed 27 August 2020