Mixtures of perfluorinated and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are the active component in these fluorinated surfactants. The foam forms an aqueous film that rapidly cuts off oxygen to extinguish the fire and prevents it from rekindling when combined with water and discharged.
PFAS have been used in firefighting foams since the 1970s because of their superior performance compared to other available options.
However, concerns have arisen in recent years about these chemicals’ potential health and environmental impacts.
Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is the most common firefighting foam containing PFAS. It is estimated that AFFF accounts for over 95% of the total PFAS used in firefighting foams.
AFFF is typically used to extinguish flammable liquid fires involving gasoline, jet fuel, and other petroleum-based products.
Some studies have shown that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health effects in humans, including liver damage, thyroid hormone disruption, increased cholesterol levels, ulcerative colitis, and reproductive and developmental toxicity.
In addition, PFAS can persist in the environment for many years and are resistant to degradation.
How to tell if firefighting foam contains PFAS
It’s difficult to tell if your AFFF is contaminated with PFAS. However, because they are not currently considered hazardous chemicals, no information regarding these compounds appears on safety data sheets (SDS).
The primary class of PFASs, Perfluorinated Alkyl sulfate (PFAS), is not typically listed on an active ingredients list. However, if the foam includes fluorosurfactant, fluoroprotein, C6, or the word “fluoro,” it’s a good indicator of PFAS.
The greatest thing to do is write down the brand and manufacturer of the foam, call the manufacturer and inform them that it contains PFAS, and ask for the SDS. Make sure you’re using the whole family of PFAS rather than just one specific compound, and double-check the SDS.
There is growing evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health effects in humans, including liver damage, thyroid hormone disruption, increased cholesterol levels, ulcerative colitis, and reproductive and developmental toxicity.
PFAS turnout gear lawsuits have been filed against 27 businesses that manufacture firefighting gear by four separate groups of firefighters in state courts. These firms include 3M and DuPont, according to the plaintiffs. The victims claim that the suppressing foam and their turnout gear contain PFAS, a known cancer-causing substance.
In addition, epidemiological studies have suggested associations between PFAS exposure and several types of cancer, including kidney cancer and testicular.
PFAS is the active component in firefighting foams, which is why they aid in their development. When combined with water and sprayed, the foam forms an aqueous film that quickly cuts off oxygen to the fire, putting it out and preventing it from rekindling.