Legislation aims to enhance airport safety and remove PFAS firefighting foam

June 3, 2024

Biden signs bills to improve safety for firefighters and travelers

President Joe Biden has signed a package of bills into law reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and improving safety at airports for firefighters and the traveling public.

The legislation, championed by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), funds a significant grant program to remove PFAS-laden firefighting foam (AFFF) from use and replace it with safer PFAS-free foams.

As reported by the IAFF, this legislation marks a critical step towards enhancing safety measures at airports.

General President Edward Kelly of the IAFF said: “Removing PFAS foams from our airports will eliminate a dangerous exposure point to the deadly toxin.

“These funds will help make our dangerous jobs safer and will protect the communities we serve. It was long overdue.

“Once again, the Biden administration is putting its money where its mouth is in our battle to eliminate cancer from the fire service.”

PFAS replacement program for airports

The newly signed bill includes the “PFAS Replacement Program for Airports,” a $350 million grant initiative aimed at helping state and municipal airports adopt PFAS-free, fluorine-free firefighting foam (F3).

This program will also support efforts associated with AFFF cleanup and disposal, and earmarks $30 million for replacing aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles that can only operate with AFFF.

Despite previous resistance from many airports to transition to PFAS-free foam, this program will make approximately 500 airports eligible for funding when it opens in early 2025.

The initiative seeks to mitigate unnecessary exposure to carcinogens for firefighters and improve overall safety.

FAA to report on airport staffing levels

In addition to the PFAS replacement program, the IAFF successfully lobbied for a requirement directing the FAA to report to Congress on staffing levels at civilian airports nationwide.

This move aims to ensure adequate staffing for effective airport operations and safety.

The IAFF’s efforts to remove AFFF from civilian airports build on their previous success with the Department of Defense (DOD).

Last year, the DOD published a “MILSPEC,” authorizing the use of PFAS-free F3 on military installations, demonstrating the feasibility and effectiveness of transitioning to safer firefighting foams.

Long-term benefits of the legislation

The new legislation not only addresses immediate safety concerns but also aims to provide long-term health benefits for firefighters and the public.

By eliminating PFAS foams, the risk of cancer associated with these toxic substances is significantly reduced.

The funding provided will ensure that airports can comply with the new safety standards without financial strain.

The Biden administration’s commitment to improving safety protocols at airports reflects a broader effort to prioritize public health and worker safety.

As the implementation of these programs begins, both firefighters and travelers can expect enhanced protections and a safer environment.

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