FDSA Independent fire testing critical for selecting firefighting foams

February 1, 2024

Understanding the safety data sheet and its implications

“If you remove fluorine (PFAS) from a firefighting foam, that makes it a wetting agent!”

Fire Department Service Announcement (FDSA) recently released Bulletin #86, underscoring the importance of understanding the Safety Data Sheet (SDS), particularly Section 15, when selecting firefighting foams.

The bulletin, dated January 31, 2024, highlights the need for fire departments to be aware of chemicals listed under Proposition 65 and States’ Right-to-Know, advising against the purchase of foams containing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

The bulletin stated: “You should not be buying a foam containing PFAS.”

The stance on C6 foams and PFAS content

The bulletin further emphasizes the Foam Exposure Committee’s opinion on C6 foams, advising that these should be completely off-limits.

According to the committee: “These foams contain 2 to 3 times the amount of PFAS as the ‘legacy’ foams.” This strong stance reflects growing concerns about the environmental and health impacts of PFAS.

The role of independent third-party fire testing

Addressing the impracticality of individual fire departments conducting their own fire tests for new foams, the bulletin recommends utilizing independent third-party fire-tested foams.

It clarifies that UL does not supply fire test packets, which are essential for reviewing a foam’s performance details.

The bulletin raises a significant question: “How will your fire department determine truly PFAS-free firefighting foams?”

Military specifications and NFPA standards

The bulletin mentions two Military Specifications (MilSpecs) for firefighting foams: F3 for land-based and C6 for saltwater applications, the latter containing PFAS

NFPA 18, Standard on Wetting Agents (2021) “This standard provides requirements for the performance and use of wetting agents as related to fire control and extinguishment.

It is intended for the guidance of the fire services, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ’s), and others concerned with judging the acceptability and use of any wetting agent offered for such a purpose.”

NFPA 18A, Standard on Water Additives for Fire Control and Vapor Mitigation (2022) “This standard provides the minimum requirements for water additives used for the control and/or suppression of Class A and Class B fires and mitigation of flammable vapors.

It’s intended for use by those responsible for purchasing, testing, listing, and using such additives.”

International standards and the choice of foams

Further, the bulletin references UL 162 and EN 1568 Parts 1-4, European Standard (2018), which critically test foams for extinguishment and burnback in different water types.

The bulletin stated:

UL 162, “Testing and certification for firefighting foam analyzes the foam’s properties, performance and compatibility with foam equipment in accordance with standards for foam equipment and foam liquid concentrates.”

EN 1568 Parts 1-4, European Standard (2018), “Critically tests a foam for both extinguishment and burnback in sea and potable (fresh) water.”

FSJA Comment

The release of Bulletin #86 by the Fire Department Service highlights the ongoing evolution in firefighting foam standards and practices.

The emphasis on avoiding PFAS-containing foams aligns with broader environmental and health safety concerns.

The Foam Exposure Committee’s advice against C6 foams underscores a commitment to reducing harmful chemical exposure.

The recommendation for independent third-party fire testing simplifies the process for fire departments in choosing effective and safe firefighting foams.

The reference to international standards like EN 1568 and military specifications further solidifies the global move towards safer firefighting methods.

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