The Dark Side of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam(AFFF): A Closer Look at Its Dangers
Have you ever thought about the downsides of something that’s supposed to keep us safe? Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) is a superhero when it comes to putting out fires, especially those caused by flammable liquids. But what if using this excellent fire-fighting foam has some not-so-great consequences?
What if it does more harm than good, like polluting our water or causing health problems? We’re here to dig deep and take a closer look at Aqueous Film-Forming Foam, uncovering the secrets it holds. Join us as we reveal the hidden story of this fire suppressant and the complications and troubles it brings, usually hidden away from plain sight.
What is Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF)?
Aqueous Film-Forming Foam is a special type of foam used to put out fires caused by flammable liquids. It’s used in places like firefighting training centers, ships, military facilities, and more.
AFFF is a mixture of water and certain chemicals, like ethylene and propylene glycol, which help the foam work effectively. It comes in different concentrations, like three percent or six percent, depending on how much water is in it.
The concern with some AFFF solutions is that they contain toxic chemicals, like Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have been used in various industries and products for many years. PFAS, such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), can be found in older versions of this foam type
PFOA, in particular, is not intentionally added to AFFF but forms during the manufacturing process, along with other unintended PFAS side products.
How Toxic Is AFFF?
AFFF can be harmful, especially when it contains PFOS and PFOA, two toxic chemicals known as PFAS. These chemicals are a concern because they have adverse effects on human health, and they don’t break down easily in the environment. This means they can persist in water sources, wildlife, and even in the human body.
Research has shown that PFAS can be linked to various health problems in humans, including cancer. AFFF is a major source of PFAS contamination in drinking water, which is a serious issue.
To address these risks, Washington passed a law in 2018 to limit the use of AFFF due to the dangers of PFAS. The U.S. Fire Administration also highlights the potential harm from long-term exposure to these chemicals. They can accumulate in the body and lead to negative health effects, including cancer.
Laboratory studies have further demonstrated the toxicity of PFOS and PFOA to animals, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found evidence suggesting that these chemicals may indeed cause cancer.
Who Is at Risk of Exposure to Aqueous Film-Forming Foam?
Consumer Notice states that studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have indicated that people who work with these chemicals and those residing close to such facilities have higher levels of PFAS (PFOS + PFOA) in their bloodstream.
AFFF finds application in various sectors, including aviation, chemical plants, municipal fire departments, flammable liquid storage facilities, highway emergency response teams, military installations, oil refineries, and oil tankers, as well as offshore platforms.
The potential risks associated with AFFF are a matter of concern for the people working in these industries and those residing near such facilities.
As TorHoerman Law notes, AFFF, produced by companies like 3M, has been a staple in the firefighting and military sectors for many years. Firefighters and military personnel who frequently use this dangerous foam, whether in training or while on duty, face a higher risk of developing cancer.
They also face other serious health problems due to their exposure to the hazardous chemical compounds present in this firefighting foam.
For many years, firefighters, both in the military and civilian sectors, have been using firefighting foam to extinguish fires. However, the chemicals present in AFFF, called “forever chemicals,” have raised serious concerns about the health risks associated with their use.
As we discussed earlier, those most at risk include firefighters, military personnel, and workers in chemical plants who have been exposed to AFFF, as prolonged exposure can lead to severe and long-term health issues. The health issues include a heightened risk of cancer.
To address these concerns, legal action has been taken, leading to what is known as the Firefighting Foam Lawsuit.
The present AFFF lawsuit update is that the Delaware Attorney General has taken legal action by filing a lawsuit against 14 companies, including industry giant 3M, for their role in manufacturing this fire suppressant containing PFAS.
The lawsuit alleges that the use of this foam has resulted in the contamination of soil and aquifers in the state, leading to environmental damage and health risks for residents.
What Are the Health Risks Associated With AFFF?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has compiled a list of medical conditions that may be associated with exposure to Aqueous Film-Forming Foam.
These potential health issues include asthma, child development problems, elevated cholesterol levels, fertility issues, fetal damage, alterations in the immune system, liver disease, low birth weight, pre-eclampsia and hypertension, and thyroid.
The severity and likelihood of these conditions may vary depending on an individual’s duration of exposure to AFFF and the concentration of the foam they were exposed to.
Furthermore, there are certain malignancies that have been linked to potential AFFF exposure. These include bladder cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, lymphoma, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer.
While some of these cancers can be treatable when detected early, others have a poor prognosis. Cancer treatment, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, can come with serious side effects. Patients often need to take time off work for treatment or may be unable to work entirely during this challenging period, which can lead to financial hardship and added stress.
Even if a person survives a cancer diagnosis, their life and that of their families are profoundly affected. The physical, emotional, and financial burdens of cancer and its treatment have long-lasting implications for those who experience it.
Aqueous Film-Forming Foam presents a double-edged sword in firefighting. While it effectively battles flammable liquid fires, it conceals an ominous side laden with toxic PFAS chemicals. This dark underbelly spells trouble for those in direct contact, such as firefighters, military personnel, and neighboring residents.
The persistence of PFAS in the environment raises concerns about long-term contamination and associated health issues, including cancer. Legal actions against manufacturers underscore the gravity of the situation.
AFFF’s paradoxical nature underscores the importance of careful evaluation, responsible use, and stringent regulations, as the cost of firefighting safety should not be the well-being of individuals and the environment.