Fire protection specialists Telgian recently published a blog post addressing the removal and replacement of AFFF, a foam fire suppression solution.
The move stems from growing concerns about the environmental impact of the foam, specifically its contribution to the contamination of water supplies with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam, is a firefighting foam solution designed to combat ignitable liquid fires: “AFFF stands for aqueous film-forming foam, a type of firefighting foam used to suppress ignitable liquid fires.”
The US Navy first employed this foam in the early 1960s.
Its effectiveness against ignitable liquid fires has been evident, as professionals in fire protection have utilized it across government and private sectors for decades.
According to Telgian, the foam’s fluorinated chemicals make it especially effective in firefighting scenarios: “AFFF is common because the foam’s fluorinated chemicals provide superior film-forming characteristics through their low surface tension and positive spread coefficient on an ignitable liquid surface, which seals the fuel from the air, preventing the release of flammable vapors.”
However, with effectiveness comes a significant downside. The foam contains PFAS, often referred to as the “forever chemical” due to its resistance to breaking down, making it environmentally problematic.
It accumulates in both our environment and inside the human body.
As a result, its use has become a pressing issue with many US states, and even the federal government has imposed restrictions, setting specific deadlines for AFFF system removals.
For those organizations wanting to transition away from AFFF, Telgian has provided insights into the removal process.
The initial step involves a thorough assessment of the current AFFF system. Expert consultants then offer design recommendations and construction phase guidelines, starting from the dismantling of the existing system to the installation of a more environmentally friendly fire protection design.
They highlight the importance of understanding regional disposal requirements: “Please note that local requirements for the disposal of AFFF can vary from region to region, which is why it’s critical to have a fire protection consultant on-hand throughout this process.”
Telgian also sheds light on potential alternatives to AFFF, suggesting solutions like non-fluorinated foam options, high-density water applications, and alternate liquid containment systems.
The shift away from AFFF, highlighted by Telgian, underscores a growing awareness of the environmental and health concerns associated with PFAS chemicals.
As the fire protection industry evolves to prioritize both safety and environmental health, understanding these changes becomes crucial for professionals and the public alike.