PFAS in AFFF firefighting foam
Firefighters, who are the highest risk group for PFAS exposure, are exposed to these chemicals during training and actual fires. Many of the firefighting gears they use contain these chemicals, and a recent Biomonitoring California study of firefighting foams found elevated levels of PFOS and PFOA in firefighters’ urine. However, the federal government has been resistant to banning these chemicals in firefighting foam. However, there is bipartisan support in Congress for a revision to MILSPEC (the federal government’s standard for firefighting foam) and a new standard for PFAS in firefighting gear.
While there are concerns about PFAS, it is important to remember that AFFF is often used to suppress fires and to prevent fires. PFAS are toxic and can remain in the environment for many years. As such, it is important to use self-contained breathing apparatus and other protective equipment to prevent exposure. It is also important to bag contaminated PPE prior to transport. In addition, it is important to use cleaning wipes after exposure to protect the face, hands, and neck. These cleaning wipes are especially important if you have skin contact with AFFF.
The city of San Jose has filed a lawsuit against 3M and other manufacturers of AFFF firefighting foam, alleging that the substance in the firefighting foam contaminated the city’s water supply. The lawsuit has been set for trial on June 5, 2023, with dispositive pre-trial motions due by February 3, 2023.
In addition to preventing PFAS from leaking out from firefighting foam, manufacturers must implement procedures to ensure the safety of the AFFF they manufacture. Firefighting foam containing PFAS must be tested to ensure that it doesn’t leach out PFAS to the environment. If a PFAS-contaminated AFFF is released into the environment, the manufacturer must reimburse the purchaser of the product.
The chemical is harmful for humans and has been linked to cancer and kidney damage. The Environmental Protection Agency and other scientific organizations have warned against using AFFF with PFAS. The United States military is now phasing out the use of AFFF but civilian firefighting foam manufacturers continue to use it.
The use of AFFF contains PFAS and has contaminated groundwater. Some of these chemicals have migrated onto adjoining properties and are affecting the drinking water of many people. This has made the use of PFAS firefighting foams controversial in the U.S. despite the widespread risk to public health. The DOD has even created a task force to address the issue.
Fire departments should consider any AFFF discharge as a hazardous materials incident and divert the foam to a containment area. The discharge of AFFF may contain PFAS, so it is important to consider the environmental impact before sending it to the local wastewater treatment plant. In addition, fire departments should consider the use of specially designed training foams in place of AFFF. Unlike PFAS, specially developed firefighting foams are biodegradable, have no adverse impacts on the environment and can be safely sent to wastewater treatment plants.
AFFF firefighting foam is often used in marine and aviation industries. It can also be used for fire suppression in fire training facilities. It is available as concentrate and Type 3 and 6 foam. To learn more about PFAS in firefighting foam, visit our PFAS page.
PFAS in AFFF firefighter foam is linked to several types of cancer. Unlike other chemicals that can be disposed of over time, PFAS chemicals stay in the human body for decades, and can cause long-term health effects. Because of this, people exposed to AFFF firefighting foam can pursue a lawsuit against manufacturers and suppliers of PFAS-based firefighting foam.
While PFAS are an important consideration for firefighting foam, they are also a big source of pollution. As a result, EPA has pushed fire protection manufacturers to develop safer alternatives to PFAS. Meanwhile, fire protection manufacturers are working hard to reduce the use of AFFF in facilities.