Retired Corlette Fireman still looking for answers

Corlette Resident Geoff Zipper (Swampy) looking for answers after 35 years of service with the NSW Fire Service                  Photo Jewell Drury
Corlette Resident Geoff Zipper (Swampy) looking for answers after 35 years of service with the NSW Fire Service
Photo Jewell Drury

CORLETTE Resident Geoff Zipper started his career as a NSW Fireman 30 June 1970 until he was medically retired due to bladder cancer in 2006.

Mr Zipper soon started asking questions when he heard that AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam), the foam used to put out fires was deadly.

The two chemicals used in AFFF, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) had both been linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and medically diagnosed high cholesterol in humans.

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These chemicals have been used to make firefighting foams in Australia for more than 50 years.

AFFF was regarded as the most effective method to fight fires as the foam blanketed and stuck to the fire, starving it of oxygen.

The  chemicals contained in AFFF are not biodegradable and it has been found that they can move from soil to groundwater causing contamination.

These chemicals have a half-life in the human body of more than 20 years.

“I know many men who I worked alongside of, who now have cancer or have lost their battles to similar cancers,” Geoff Zipper told Bay News Of The Area.

“We were previously told that Asbestos was a safe product, and we later found out the dangers,” Mr Zipper said.

“My fear is that Aqueous fire fighting foam is the new ‘asbestos’, and that we will have to wait for more deaths to occur before the full truth comes out,” he said.

There are currently investigations being done all over the world, including in the Port Stephens town of Williamtown, after the contamination of groundwater from AFFF.

The Department of Defence has said the human health impacts by PFOS and PFOA are unknown.

“There are no globally accepted peer review studies showing that exposure to PFOS and PFOA affects human health,” a Defence spokesman said.

Mr Zipper’s concern isn’t about compensation, but rather speaking out for the health and welfare of his former workmates, the firemen who were exposed to these chemicals.

“It’s about doing right by the people who have been exposed to these chemicals and looking after them and their families,” Mr Zipper said.


By Jewell DRURY

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