You know that Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFF) have been used for decades in the fire service.
In the United States, the transition over to fluorine-free firefighting foams is now occurring.
‘The delay in taking action appears to have been caused by the combination of a dysfunctional regulatory system, a dispirited federal agency, and the ability of manufacturers to delay restrictions on the use of hazardous products.’1
‘The vast majority of Class B firefighting foam that is currently in stock or service in the United States is AFFF or AR-AFFF. All AFFF products contain PFAS. This applies to foams used in the past and those being sold today. Foam currently in stock or new foam that is labeled as AFFF or AR-AFFF, contains perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or both, as active ingredients (DOD 2018; Darwin 2004) [PFOA and PFOS].’2
Class B firefighting foams containing PFAS continue to be used worldwide ‘in training and emergency response events at airports, shipyards, military bases, firefighting training facilities, chemical plants, and refineries.’3
Since the fire service is charged with protecting public health and safety, the continued use of PFAS containing firefighting foams is now becoming a defined health issue. Citizens and governmental officials are now questioning fire departments as they may be more aware of toxicity issues than the fire service.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) currently tracks PFAS contamination in the United States. 2,854 sites in 50 states and two territories have been identified.4
‘While the country has moved away from the use of some PFAS – for example, through corporate phase-outs or regulatory restrictions on PFOA and PFOS, where evidence of their harm is overwhelming – the fluorochemical industry continues to develop new chemicals in that family in the name of innovation and economic profit. These newer iterations – often promoted as safer alternatives or pushed through regulatory loopholes – not only persist like those they attempted to replace, but they pose many of the same public health risks.’5
The bioaccumulation properties of PFAS chemicals are a health issue:
‘They found that PFAS builds up in “all body organs tested,” including the brain, heart, liver, bones, muscle, and skin. Both 3M and DuPont have phased out their use of long-chain PFAS, such as PFOA and PFOS, following multiple lawsuits (https://chemicalwatch.com/53632/dupont-chemours-settle-pfoa-lawsuit-for-670m) from exposed communities who claim their health was harmed by those chemicals. However, the short-chain alternatives have also been shown to be toxic, are widely used in the marketplace, and this study specifically showed they are absorbed into organs like the long-chain versions.’6
At this time, there is no known method to remove PFAS from the blood or organs of humans.
‘Because some PFAS are persistent in the human body, blood PFOS and PFOA levels can be a surrogate for total PFAS body burden and provide a better indication of the PFAS dose to a target organ than an externally measured dose like PFAS water concentration.’7
The USEPA issued their ‘roadmap’ for handling PFAS in October 2021.8
During October 2021, the NFPA Research Foundation conducted a three-day virtual workshop on developing ‘… a strategic roadmap for the fire service while transitioning from fluorinated foam (i.e., AFFF) usage to fluorine free foam technology.’9
In the meantime, the United States’ state fire marshals are stepping up.
Indiana State Fire Marshal Joel M. Thacker recently issued information regarding the state’s Firefighting Foam Collection Initiative following Indiana law.
‘The PFAS initiative focuses on protecting firefighter safety. The state will remove and properly dispose of PFAS material from any agency that requests it. This is a free service with no additional requirements for fire agencies.’10
The Indiana Class B PFAS Foam Collection Initiative (IDHS and IDEM) is now conducting a survey of fire departments. As other states have done, this will enable the state officials to determine resources needed for future foam collections. The State of Indiana has designated the following types of foam which are qualified for the state’s free disposal program:
ν Any foam manufactured before 2003
ν Any foam where the date of manufacture is unknown
ν Any foam with the following acronyms on its label: AFFF, AR-AFFF, FFFP, AF-FFFP, FP, FPAR
ν Any foam that is unlabeled
ν Any foam mixed with other foams11
‘A good indicator that the foam contains PFAS is if it mentions fluorosurfactant, fluoroprotein, C6, or the use of “fluoro…”’12
‘The best thing to do is to note the brand and manufacturer of the foam and contact the manufacturer in writing to see if PFAS is used in its production and ask for the SDS. Be sure to be clear that you mean the entire family of PFAS, not just the single compound PFOS, and be sure to review the SDS.’13
‘Consider the firefighter and public safety first.’14
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. ACS Publications, Environmental Science & Technology, Fool Me Once, David Sedlak, Editor-in-Chief, July 7, 2016, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.est.6b03367
2. ITRC, Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), https://pfas-1.itrcweb.org/fact_sheets_page/PFAS_Fact_Sheet_AFFF_April2020.pdf
3. PFAS: Health Concerns and Efforts to Regulate “Forever Chemicals,” Carey Gillam, Nov 19, 2021, https://usrtk.org/chemicals/pfas-health-concerns-and-efforts-to-regulate-forever-chemicals/
4. PFAS Contamination in the U.S. (October 4, 2021), Mapping the PFAS contamination crisis: New data show 2,854 sites in 50 states and two territories, https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/pfas_contamination/
5. Environmental Health News, Analysis: 7 things the White House should do to limited PFAS pollution, Laureen Ellis & Maricel V. Maffini, November 23, 2021, https://www.ehn.org/pfas-regulations-2655775166.html
6. HealthCare Without Harm, US & Canada, PFAS Found to Build Up In Organs, Safer Chemicals Team, April 21, 2017, https://noharm-uscanada.org/articles/news/us-canada/pfas-found-build-organs
7. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), PFAS, An Overview of the Science and Guidance for Clinicians on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), Rev. 12/6/2019, p. 5, https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/docs/clinical-guidance-12-20-2019.pdf
8. PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024, October 18, 2021, https://www.epa.gov/pfas/pfas-strategic-roadmap-epas-commitments-action-2021-2024
10. NFPA Research Foundation, Fire Service Roadmap, https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Resources/Fire-Protection-Research-Foundation/Current-projects/Firefighting-Foams-Fire-Service-Roadmap
11. Indiana Class B PFAS Firefighting Foam Collection Initiative, accessed Nov 24, 2021, https://www.in.gov/dhs/fire-and-building-safety/division-of-fire-and-building-safety-overview/foam-program/
13. Indiana law concerning the use of PFAS foam, Accessed Nov 26, 2021, https://www.in.gov/dhs/files/PFAS%20foam%20fact%20sheet%20final%20draft%2010.13.21.pdf
14. Firefighting Foams, The PFAS Team, ITRC, Training Module, accessed Oct 30, 2021, https://pfas-1.itrcweb.org/3-firefighting-foams/#table_3_1