There are vast differences in firefighting foams and, unfortunately, the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are relatively generic. Military Specification (MilSpec), AFFF, AR-AFFF and C6 products are of the most concern because of their known high toxicity. One Foam Exposure Committee (FEC) tester had stopped by a Midwestern fire department to collect an active C6 product only to find out that it had been tossed into a dumpster on the fire chief’s order to clean out the fire department. This raised concern because proper disposal methods are critical for these products. One five-gallon pail of a C6 product would be enough to contaminate a large lake. Short-chain polymers are much more difficult to remediate than long-chain polymers.
Since there is no ‘cradle to grave’ protocol for PFAS firefighting foam at present, these products can leach out ‘forever chemicals’ which can then contaminate community water supplies. Fire chiefs have been put in the untenable position of contaminating their own communities. PFAS have long been considered bio persistent as well as toxic.
Continuing research will provide the necessary information in order to make changes to protect firefighters. But, in the meantime, fire departments are encouraged to stop using all AFFF, AR-AFFF and C6 products now. A fire department can contact their local or state department of natural resources or pollution agency for directions on disposal. There is no regulatory requirement for US fire departments to use fluorinated firefighting foams.
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 [email protected] or call +1 262-794-7226