The Foam Exposure Committee

May 13, 2024

Vicki Quint, Co-Chair of the Foam Exposure Committee (FEC) discusses the origins and aims of the committee

The Foam Exposure Committee (FEC) was formed in 2018 with the mission: “To reduce firefighter / first responder exposures to perfluorinated chemicals used in firefighting foams to protect their health and lives. We will recommend a list of firefighting products for fire departments based on testing data and Committee review. First responders should have immediate access to safer fluorine-free firefighting foams (F3).”

The Fire Department Service Announcement banner was formed to be the distribution channel for the FEC’s bulletin work. It was decided and agreed upon there was a need to provide information directly to the fire service. Not only were firefighters being exposed to PFAS firefighting foams, but the firefighters were unknowingly creating exposures in their own communities they were charged with protecting.

FEC met in person at a fire conference. They shared concerns about firefighter exposure to fluorinated firefighting foams. The members were challenged to collect firefighting foam samples for Total Fluorine testing. Criteria for the sample collection was established. Nearly two hundred firefighting foam samples were secured from fire departments. Chain of custody forms were completed for foam samples. Testing was done by double blind testing method.

FEC knew they had a duty to share the test results. Action had to occur. Thus, the F3 list was established for fire department use.  The products were reviewed for California Prop 65 chemicals. The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office offers the FEC F3 list. FEC was the first group to include fire testing level certifications. These third-party independent certs give fire departments consistent criteria to evaluate suppression capabilities.

FEC’s collective fire service experience is more than 220 years. The geographic locations of the members became an advantage as each committee member was familiar with two or more states.

The Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) posts the FEC bulletins, the current F3 list and past articles under “Safety Resources” at:  https://fdsoa.org/Foam-Exposure-Info

FEC’s work on testing firefighting foam samples exposed other issues such as the length of time fire departments keep foam products. One test sample stored in a Midwest fire department displayed a hand lettered “AFFF” on a 55-gallon barrel. This made it impossible to know the brand, lot number, production date or expiration.

An early FEC project involved completing an extensive AFFF timeline focused on the fire service. This timeline gave the committee further motivation for action.

The work continued to evolve. Others who had heightened concerns about the firefighter cancer rates enabled and encouraged the committee to publish articles in fire service magazines, industrial fire, HazMat and ARFF publications. Although information is focused solely for the fire service, other groups have found the work useful including governmental, law, consumers, industrial, medical and academia segments.

Congress had set a deadline directive through the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018, dictating the FAA should transition from AFFF to F3. But the FAA missed the deadline date of October 4, 2021. The same month an industrial fire publication headline announced the “Foam Exposure Committee Leans on FAA to Fulfill Fluorine-free Foam Directive.”

As of this date, the FAA has still not yet begun the change over to F3 at airports. FAA has admitted they are not the decision maker and are still awaiting NAVSEA or the Department of Defense’s direction.

The Committee independence has been maintained by emphasis on the firefighter safety aspect. Costs have been self-funded by the members to avoid conflicts of interest.

FEC is grateful to the University of Notre Dame, the students involved in the foam sample testing project and Professor Graham Peaslee. The data obtained from this testing formed the basis of bulletin reference materials.

FEC Members

The Foam Exposure Committee is comprised of a dedicated team of individuals who bring a wealth of experience and personal commitment to the cause. The committee is comprised of :

  • John Clausen, Retired Fire Chief, Northeast
  • Bill Hutchins, Retired Firefighter, Southwest
  • Dion LeMieux, Retired Fire Chief, Midwest
  • Rick Nickeson, Northeast
  • Rick Rochford, Retired Fire Chief, Southeast
  • Vicki Quint, Widow Of Fire Chief Michael Quint, Midwest

There are no regulations requiring a fire department to use AFFF. FEC is happy to share their work. To keep up to date with the FEC’s bulletins visit: https://firedepartmentsa.com/.

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of Fire & Safety Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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