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Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

About PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), previously known as PFCs (per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals), and their derivatives, are a group of synthetic chemicals with many specialty applications. They can provide resistance to heat, to other chemicals or to abrasion and can act as dispersion, wetting or surface-treatment agents. There are many different types of PFAS, including:

  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, known as PFOS
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA
  • Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid, known as PFHxS

In Australia, PFAS have been used in a variety of industrial processes and in commercial and consumer products. PFOS, PFOA and related compounds are imported mainly for use as:

  • Mist suppressants in the metal plating industry
  • Hydraulic fluid in the aviation industry
  • Surfactants in the photography industry
  • Fire-fighting foams

Some imported articles such as textiles may have been treated with PFAS.

Our regulation of PFAS

We regulate the manufacture and importation of PFAS (including those that may break down to form perfluorinated substances such as PFOS and PFOA).

Importers and manufacturers (introducers) of these chemicals must comply with legal obligations under the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019. This includes registering their business with us and categorising their chemical importation or manufacture (introduction) before they can lawfully introduce these chemicals into Australia.

We also enforce import and export controls on PFOS and specified PFOS precursors listed under the Rotterdam Convention. These controls prohibit the introduction or export of these chemicals unless an importer or exporter obtains our approval. The regulation of the use, release and disposal of PFAS in Australia is primarily a state and territory responsibility.

We contribute to other international activities to restrict the use of PFAS through the OECD Chemicals Committee and through our role in meeting the Australian Government's obligations under the Stockholm Convention.


The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) published 6 alerts between 2002 and 2008 on the identified risks of PFAS, including recommendations to manage these risks. You can read these alerts through the Australian Government Web Archive.

NICNAS assessed the risks of more than 200 PFAS chemicals available for use in Australia, focusing on PFOS and PFOA and their direct and indirect precursors (other chemicals that break down in the environment to form PFOS and PFOA). NICNAS also assessed the risks of related chemicals including shorter chain PFAS that may be used as replacements for PFOS and PFOA. These assessments include exposure and hazard information and risk management recommendations for industry. You can find these assessments by searching for the chemical’s name or CAS number on our website. The following table highlights PFAS that NICNAS assessed for human health or environmental risk.

PFAS assessments

Chemical Human Health Environment

Perfluorobutanesulfonate (PFBS) and its direct precursors

Yes Yes

Indirect precursors of perfluorobutanesulfonate (PFBS)

Yes Yes

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its direct precursors

Yes Yes

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its direct precursors

Yes Yes

Perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFSA) (>C8) and their direct precursors

Yes Yes

Perfluoroalkane sulfonates (PFSA) (C5-C7) and their direct precursors

Yes Yes

Short chain perfluorocarboxylic acids and their direct precursors

Yes Yes
Indirect precursors of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) Yes Yes

Indirect precursors of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Yes Yes

Perfluoroheptanoic acid and its direct precursors

Yes Yes

Indirect precursors of long-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs)

Yes Yes

Indirect precursors of short chain perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs)

Yes Yes

Indirect precursors of perfluoroalkane sulfonic acids (PFSA) (C5-C7)

Yes Yes

Direct precursors to perfluorocyclohexane sulfonate and related perfluoroalkylcyclohexane sulfonates

Yes Yes

Perfluorinated derivatives of phosphonic and phosphinic acids

Yes Yes

6:2 Fluorotelomer siloxanes and silicones

Yes Yes

6:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonate derivatives

Yes Yes

Carbamic acid, [2-(sulfothio)ethyl]-, C-( alkyl) esters, monosodium salts

Yes Yes


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