Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) has long been a critical tool in fighting flammable liquid fires. However, recent revelations about the toxic chemicals it contains have raised concerns about the health risks associated with its use.
Toxic ingredients found in AFFF have been connected to a number of grave health issues, including cancer. Lawsuits have been filed against producers such as 3M. Organizations involved in the usage of AFFF are also under investigation.
In this article, we will discuss the EPA’s stance on AFFF toxicity and the regulatory actions it has taken in response to this issue. We will also look at the impacted sectors, possible health dangers, and ongoing legal disputes related to AFFF.
Understanding AFFF and Its Uses
AFFF is a firefighting foam developed to efficiently tackle flammable liquid flames. It is essential in a variety of environments, including military bases, chemical factories, fire departments, and oil refineries. AFFF’s unique ability to suppress fires involving flammable liquids, such as petroleum, makes it indispensable for first responders and industrial safety personnel.
According to ConsumerNotice.org, AFFF works by creating a film that covers the fuel source, preventing oxygen from reaching it. This film not only extinguishes the fire but also serves as a barrier that hinders reignition. This makes AFFF a valuable asset in situations where traditional water-based firefighting methods may be ineffective.
The Presence of PFAS in AFFF
One of the key components of AFFF that have raised concerns is the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This includes PFOS and PFOA. These chemicals are not naturally occurring and have been used in various consumer and industrial products since the 1950s.
PFAS are known for their persistence in the environment and potential health risks. According to BIOEX, AFFF contains these PFAS to create the foamy mixture that efficiently suppresses fires involving flammable liquids. However, the use of PFAS has raised questions about the long-term health effects of exposure to these chemicals.
EPA’s Regulatory Actions
In response to the concerns about PFAS in AFFF, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken regulatory actions to address the issue. The EPA issued guidance on its Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) in January 2021.
This rule restricts companies from importing, manufacturing, using, or processing certain long-chain PFAS without prior approval from the EPA. These regulations also extend to companies importing these chemicals for use as surface coatings.
The EPA’s goal is to control and reduce the use of PFAS in various products, including AFFF. This is expected to help minimize potential health and environmental risks associated with these persistent chemicals.
Health Risks Associated with AFFF
The health risks associated with AFFF primarily stem from prolonged exposure to PFAS. Research has revealed that these PFAS can accumulate in the human body, potentially leading to a range of serious health problems.
One of the most concerning health risks is cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, studies and evidence have linked PFOS and PFOA to an increased risk of various cancers. This includes bladder cancer, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and even pancreatic cancer. These findings have raised alarm among individuals who have been exposed to AFFF over extended periods.
Beyond cancer, there are additional health issues that can result from PFAS exposure. Liver damage, changes in the immune system, and cholesterol problems have been documented. Furthermore, fertility issues, thyroid disease, and conditions such as ulcerative colitis have been associated with long-term exposure to AFFF.
Ongoing Legal Battles
The revelation of health risks associated with AFFF has led to numerous lawsuits against manufacturers and entities connected to AFFF use. TorHoerman Law notes that many individuals, including civilian and military firefighters, have filed lawsuits after suffering health problems they attribute to AFFF exposure.
The firefighter foam lawsuit aims to hold manufacturers accountable for not adequately warning the public about the potential health hazards of AFFF. It also seeks compensation for health issues that individuals have faced due to AFFF exposure.
Implications for Affected Industries
The legal battles and regulatory actions surrounding AFFF have significant implications for various industries. Military and firefighting organizations, as well as those living near facilities that have used AFFF, may face potential consequences.
Firefighters, both civilian and military, who have used AFFF for years may be at greater risk of developing serious health complications, including cancer. Communities located near facilities that use AFFF are also at risk of health effects due to the chemicals contaminating air, soil, and groundwater.
The presence of toxic PFAS compounds in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) has raised significant concerns about its health and environmental impacts. The EPA’s regulatory actions to control and reduce PFAS use in AFFF highlight the gravity of the issue.
Prolonged exposure to AFFF has been linked to a range of serious health problems, including cancer and various other ailments. Ongoing legal battles reflect the growing awareness and determination to hold manufacturers accountable for potential health hazards.
This situation not only affects the affected industries, including firefighting and military organizations but also poses risks to communities near AFFF-related facilities. The need for safer firefighting alternatives is evident, considering the potential consequences of AFFF use.