Firefighters have become much more aware of the perfluorinated chemical compounds used in firefighting foams. PFAS are used in all Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) and pose a threat to firefighter health, safety and life. In addition to exposure at incidents, ‘Firefighters may also handle open containers of concentrated foams at the firehouse when topping off the apparatus tank during scheduled maintenance.’1 As such, the potential for incidental ingestion or absorption through dermal (physical) contact should not be ignored.
Several attendees to the Fire Department Instructor Conference (FDIC) 2019 held in Indianapolis, Indiana heard Dr Graham Peaslee speak about his independent scientific study of PFAS found in firefighter gear (PPE). These attendees were interested in testing firefighting foam samples for the fire service. The Foam Exposure Committee (FEC) was formed shortly thereafter. This committee includes two retired fire chiefs, an apparatus manufacturer, a foam representative, a retired military firefighter and a widow of a fire chief.
FEC set up standardized test sample kits. Procedures were established with independent testing conducted by mass spectrometry (PIGE) for total fluorine (TF). Samples were taken from firefighting foams in active use by US fire departments. The oldest firefighting foam sample obtained was from 1978.
There are critical issues involved with using older firefighting foams. ‘There are two key areas of concern with these AFFFs containing these compounds: environmental impacts and health impacts. Concerning the health impact, it is important to recognize that the body cannot metabolize these chemicals.’2
The Foam Exposure Committee’s mission is to reduce firefighter/first responder exposures to perfluorinated chemicals used in firefighting foams in order to protect their health and lives. We will determine which firefighting products contain PFAS and those that are fluorine free. Our first responders should have immediate access to safer fluorine-free firefighting foams. For more information, contact Vicki Quint, Quint LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-794-7226
For more information, please visit: pfasproject.com/2020/03/19/foam-exposure-committee-leading-pfas-research/
1 Fire Apparatus Magazine, Issue 7 and Volume 22, The Legacy of Firefighting Foam, Phillip Paff, July 10, 2017, https://www.fireapparatusmagazine.com/2017/07/10/the-legacy-of-firefighting-foam/