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Draft Guidance on Per fluoroalkyl and Poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Recreational Water

Closed on Thursday, 27 September 2018, 04:00pm (AEDT). Submissions are no longer being accepted.


The Guidelines for Managing Risk in Recreational Water (Recreational Water Guidelines) developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) are designed to provide advice on protecting human health from threats posed by the recreational use of coastal, estuarine and fresh water.  Local, state, and territory authorities, and other stakeholders use the guidelines to develop policy and procedures for local conditions and circumstances to ensure that recreational water environments are managed as safely as possible. They do not include advice on swimming pools, spas or water play parks.

At the request of the Australian Government Department of Health, NHMRC has developed draft Guidance on Per-fluoroalkyl and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Recreational Water (the draft Guidance) including Health Based Guideline Values (HBGVs) for recreational water as an addendum to the Recreational Water Guidelines. This includes HBGVs for several PFAS including for the summed concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and a separate HBGV for the concentration of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in recreational water.

The Health Based Guideline Value (HBGV) for a chemical is the concentration that is consistent with good quality water and based on present knowledge, does not result in any significant risk to the health of the consumer over a lifetime of water consumption.

The NHMRC Water Quality Advisory Committee (WQAC) has based the draft guidance on patterns of use that reflect long-term accumulated exposure, rather than toxicity or short-term variations. Since recreational water use may be highly seasonal, exposure assumptions are based on annual total exposure scenarios.

This approach is different from the existing method in the current recreational water guidelines. Instead of having an ingestion rate of 0.2 L per day from recreational contact, an (average) ingestion volume per water-based recreational event is used in combination with an assumed number of water-based recreational events per year (event frequency). Numerous conservative assumptions are applied to produce a default HBGV designed to protect the majority of the population. The default guidance is conservative, but includes an option for local authorities to recalculate the HBGV based on specific local scenarios taking into account local circumstances such as seasonal patterns of recreational water use.

Aim of consultation

The aim of this public consultation is to seek stakeholder feedback on the draft Guidance, including on the approach to developing the HBGVs and any issues relevant to implementation.

NHMRC Council has approved public consultation on the draft Guidance.  You are invited, under paragraph 13(d) of the NHMRC Act 1992, to make a submission to NHMRC regarding this draft document.

Feedback from the public consultation will be addressed by WQAC in finalising the documents. Following this, approval from NHMRC Council will be sought for publication as an addendum to the Recreational Water Guidelines.


NHMRC is seeking responses to specific questions that relate to the Draft Guidance on Per‑fluoroalkyl and Poly‑fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Recreational Water.

Out of scope

Issues raised on other aspects of water quality are not within scope of this process and therefore will not be considered.

Consultation documents

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Consultation date

Please note the Timezone is AEDT.

Opening date: 
Thursday, 9 August 2018 - 9:00am
Closing date: 
Thursday, 27 September 2018 - 4:00pm
Please note that for some NHMRC consultations no extensions will be given. Where extensions are available you will need to contact the project officer using the contact details at the bottom of this page. However, in order for NHMRC to extend the date of a submission you will need to have created an account and started a submission.
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Page reviewed: 10 August, 2018