I was a recent press release summarizing the bills that Environment Texas supports and doesn’t support. I noted that there is support for HB 4506 and SB 2073 which if passed will ban PFAS in firefighting foam.
Based on other states that have introduced similar legislation, I would expect the FluoroCouncil and Fire Fighting Foam Coalition (FFFC), both of which are extremely well funded, to start a campaign to exempt certain industries.
Banning PFAS in firefighting foam is the right thing to do and it can be done immediately.
All of the bills at the State level have addressed two issues:
1. PFAS impregnated in firefighters turnout gear; and,
2. PFAS in Class “B” firefighting foam.
I don’t know how to solve the problem with PFAS in turnout gear, but I do know how to solve the problem of PFAS in firefighting foam, and it is very simple.
The question, to me, is:
Do you want to continue the use PFAS containing foam, AFFF, when a PFAS free foam will extinguish a Class “B” fire? There may be an aquatic toxicity issue for some fluorine-free Class “B” foams, but I would expect that would be an acceptable trade-off.
The answer is the immediate ban of AFFF.
As I will detail below, the smothering standard used to approve AFFF and synthetic foam is exactly the reason that you can mandate the immediate transition to synthetic foam.
LOBBYING TO WATER DOWN THE BILL’S LANGUAGE
As I said above, I would expect the FluoroCouncil and Fire Fighting Foam Coalition (FFFC), both of which are extremely well funded, to start a campaign to exempt certain industries. The FluoroCouncil and FFFC will ask that petroleum refineries, oil terminals, and chemical plants be exempt from the law.
The mantra of the FluoroCouncil and the FFFC is “more time is needed to study the health issues related to PFAS” and “only AFFF (PFAS) can extinguish Class “B” ignitable liquids.”
In May 2001 the Fire Fighting Foam Coalition (FFFC) was formed in order to educate, inform and help persuade regulatory and legislative decision-makers that firefighting foams are a value-added component to any firefighting capability.
The FFFC members will tell first responders that C6 AFFF is safe because it doesn’t break down into PFOS or PFOA. This is a lie by omission because only C8 AFFF breaks down into PFOS and PFOA.
This closely matches what the East Hampton Fire Department (Long Island, NY) was told. This is from an article in the May 28, 2019, 27 East paper. “The East Hampton Fire Department now uses a foam called Universal Gold C6, according to Village Administrator Rebecca Hansen. The foam is produced by the National Foam Corporation, one of several foam manufacturers that are the target of numerous class-action lawsuits by residents and municipalities, including East Hampton Town, that have found their groundwater to be contaminated by PFOS/PFOA. The company’s dossier on Universal Gold specifically says it does not contain PFOS/PFOA and contains no “reportable” ingredients under federal liability regulations, but the C6 in the name refers to the carbon molecule count of other PFAS chemicals”.
There are no reportable ingredients in C6 AFFF because the Fire Fighting Foam Coalition (FFFC), formed in 2001 when the C8 AFFF issues were causing problems for AFFF manufacturers, asked the EPA to exempt it from the regulatory process because the “new” C6 AFFF was safe. On October 30, 2003, the FFFC’s lobbyist sent the FFFC members the good news. That news was that the USEPA would only focus on C8 AFFF (PFOS and PFOA). The FFFC members were free to keep manufacturing C6 AFFF.
WHAT IS THE STANDARD
C6 AFFF is ineffective on real-world fires. Class “B” synthetic foams (PFAS free foams), which were developed to pass the NFPA 11/UL 162 standard, will be equally ineffective on real-world fires.
The NFPA 11/UL 162 standard for Class “B” foams is a smothering standard. AFFF and the fluorine-free Class “B” smothering foams that were developed to meet the NFPA 11/UL 162 standard do one thing extremely well — smother a 2-dimensional fire in a 50-foot pan — usually indoors.
Industrial fires are a combination of pressurized, flowing fuel and pooled fires.
It appears that the Naval Research Lab (NRL) and FAA will end up with a standard for synthetic foam that will be a smothering standard. The standard may be accomplished by expanding NFPA 11, or as was suggested by the NRL/Jensen Hughes study released in January 2020, it may be a new NFPA Standard — either way it will be a smothering standard with testing similar to UL 162. Again, the smothering standard is designed to put out a 50 square foot fire, usually indoors, and this is not what military and airport firefighters will respond to. As was stated in a webinar comparing AFFF to synthetic foam, the person giving the webinar stated he has never seen an aircraft crash into a 50 square foot pan.
SMOTHERING FOAMS DO NOT WORK IN THE REAL WORLD
AFFF was developed jointly by the Navy and 3M in the 1960s. AFFF was developed to do one thing very well — smother two-dimensional fires. PFAS makes a very durable foam blanket. The NFPA 11 test, which qualifies AFFF for use, is done in a pan, typically indoors with a backsplash to increase the foaminess of the AFFF/water solution.
The NFPA 11 Appendix A (UL 162 tests to the NFPA 11 AFFF Standard), the smothering standard, states “Foam is not suitable for three¬ dimensional flowing liquid fuel fires or for gas fires”. (my bolding).
The types of fires that Class “B” foam would be used on are typically a combination of pressurized, flowing fuel and pooled fires. It is impossible to smother an aircraft fire or a rail tank car that is on fire.
Dwight Williams, who is an international legend in the world of firefighting, recently introduced his Dwight Williams Signature Series Foam. This foam is described as the “cleanest C6 foam on the market”.
An article which was written by Anton Riecher for Industrial Fire World (January 1, 2019) and titled Williams’ AR-AFFF Signature Foam Arrives had some interesting quotes from Mr. Williams. These quotes included
“Beside foam, dry chemical can be an important extinguishing resource”, Williams said.
“Count on having pressure fires when you have a storage tank fire,” he said. “The chances are about 50–50.” “The textbook says that pressure fires should be extinguished before any foam attack on the surface fire”, Williams said it depends on the circumstances.
“Under the right circumstances, the dry chemical can be more effective on a storage tank surface fire than firefighting foam”.
These statements support the fact that smothering foams (AFFF and synthetic Class “B” foams) are not as effective as the manufacturers want you to believe.
ARE SYNTHETIC PFAS FREE FOAMS READILY AVAILABLE
The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation funded The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I)/Rochester Institute of Technology to carry out a detailed study of Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances in Firefighting Foam. This study was completed in December 2018 and includes a comprehensive database of fluorine-free foams. The study found approximately 100 fluorine-free foams.
Major airports like London Heathrow have successfully used fluorine-free Class B firefighting foams for years, including to combat active fires. Washington state will ban the sale of Class B firefighting foams with intentionally added PFAS chemicals for residential fires in 2020.
IPEN, which is a global group of experts has a panel that is seeking to ban all PFAS from firefighting foam. The panel prepared a document for the Stockholm Convention 9th Conference of the Parties held a few weeks ago. The following is on page 27 of the document:
A comprehensive list of known end-users of fluorine-free firefighting (F3) foams was given in the IPEN White Paper presented at the UN Stockholm Convention POPS Review Committee meeting in Rome in September 2018. This list is reproduced below.
All of the 27 major Australian airports have transitioned to fluorine-free firefighting (F3) foams, as have the following major hub airport’s: Dubai, Dortmund, Stuttgart, London Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh, Manchester, London City, Leeds-Brad- ford, Copenhagen, and Auckland, and elsewhere in Europe such as Billund, Guernsey, Bristol, Black- pool, Köln-Bonn. Private sector companies using F3 foams include: BP, ExxonMobil, Total, Caltex, Gazprom, Statoil, BHP Billiton, Bayern Oil, 3M, BASF, Chemours, AkzoNobel, Stena Line, Pfizer, Lilly, Weifa, JO Tankers, and ODFJEL. In the oil and gas sector, F3 foams are being used extensively, with Statoil in Norway having transitioned to F3 foams throughout all of its operations. Some military users, including the Danish and Norwegian Armed forces, have moved to F3 foams.
LANGUAGE TO AVOID IN THE BILL
Please avoid “discretionary” and “clear and convincing”.
New York State’s PFAS ban law includes an amendment “to allow discretionary use of firefighting agents containing PFAS where no other viable options exist”. Governor Cuomo’s bill signing Memo 61 of 2019 stated that the 2019 law had to be amended to allow for the continued use of PFAS chemicals in firefighting activities as there were no effective PFAS free firefighting foams that would be an effective substitute for fires involving flammable/ignitable liquids.
California’s PFAS ban law includes a provision that the State Fire Marshal can grant a waiver and allow a company to continue to use AFFF if it demonstrates that there is clear and convincing evidence that there is no commercially available replacement that does not contain intentionally added PFAS chemicals and that is capable of suppressing fire for that specific use. It has already been proven, using the 50 square foot pan test, that fluorine foams, at a higher application rate, can pass the standard.
LANGUAGE TO INCLUDE
Please make sure that the entity that is designated to administer the law has the necessary scientific knowledge to administer the law.
In New York, the law requires that the Office Of Fire Prevention And Control administer the law. In California, the law requires that the State Fire Marshal administer the law.
These organizations do not have the scientific and technical expertise to administer the program with respect to regulations, guidance, or even keeping up with the rapidly evolving science of PFAS.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
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