Current health risk fire-fighting foam will be phased out

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has describes the transition from fluorinated aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) currently used to extinguish flammable liquid fires (class B), to fluorine-free foams (FFF).

AFFFs use a class of chemicals containing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances commonly referred to as PFAS.

PFAS pose well-documented environmental and health risks. Because of these risks, state and federal legislators are phasing out fluorinated firefighting foams in military, aviation, industrial, and municipal firefighting arenas.

Although FFFs are replacing AFFFs, recent research on alternative fluorine-free foams by the NFPAthe Federal Aviation Administrationand the defense department showed that FFFs are not as effective as AFFFs in fighting liquid fuel fires.

To use the FFFs currently on the market safely and effectively, fire departments will need to adopt different tactics and new training in how to select, use and dispose of these new foams.

Fire departments will also need to be prepared to adapt to changes in legislation and the foam industry as fluorine-free foam products continue to improve.

The NFPA roadmap offers considerations for transitioning firefighting to fluorine-free foam, backed by the latest research and a technical panel comprised of the following representatives:

  • The profession of firefighter;
  • Fire science and research;
  • The fuel industry;
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other stakeholders.

The report includes both overview and in-depth coverage of:

  • Understand the regulations in force and know when to make the transition;
  • Fire Fighting Foam Tutorial;
  • Selection of an acceptable AFFF alternative;
  • Cleaning of equipment and definition of acceptable levels;
  • Elimination of current AFFF products (concentrates and solutions);
  • Implementation of the chosen alternative;
  • Health concerns and minimization of firefighter exposures; and
  • Post-fire/post-discharge cleaning and documentation.