One of the most effective ways to fight fires is now one of the most dangerous to its users. Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) is a type of fire suppressant made with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Unfortunately, recent research around PFAS from the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that these substances do not break down over time and, in fact, potentially leak into water systems and indoor air spaces. You’ll find PFAS in other products, but using Aqueous Film Forming Foam to fight fires leads to higher levels of exposure quicker.
If you’re a company that has used AFFF and is looking for how to dispose of it, look no further than HWH Environmental. Our trained hazardous waste disposal experts work together with you and your team to remove Aqueous Film Forming Foam from your facility quickly and efficiently.
To learn more about Aqueous Film Forming Foam and its effects, continue reading below.
What is Aqueous Film Forming Foam?
Aqueous Film Forming Foam is a fluorine-containing firefighting foam used primarily for firefighter training, shipboard and shore facility fire suppression systems, and Class B materials (gasoline, oil, and jet fuel).
AFFF is created by combining foaming agents with fluorinated surfactants. When the AFFF is released, it turns into an aqueous foam that “cuts off oxygen to the fire, cools it, extinguishes the fire, and prevents it from relighting.”
In the 1960s, Navy scientists working with chemical company 3M developed and patented the foam.
This fire suppression system is highly effective against some of the most difficult-to-fight fires, but across the country, states are banning the use of AFFF due to its active ingredients. In October 2024, the U.S. military also plans to halt all use of AFFF.
Where is AFFF Used?
Developed and parented by the U.S. Military, Aqueous Film Forming Foam was used by all military branches as one of their main fire-fighting tools.
Soon, AFFF was adopted by:
- Chemical plants
- Flammable liquid storage and processing facilities
- Merchant operations (oil tankers, offshore platforms)
- Municipal services (fire departments, firefighting training centers)
- Oil refineries, terminals
- Bulk fuel storage farms
- Aviation operations (aircraft rescue and firefighting, hangars)
- Civilian airports
- Some industrial fire extinguishers
- Military facilities.
AFFF’s effectiveness led to its increased usage across the country. Many local fire departments used AFFF for fire suppression training and in practice. Most civilian fire suppression systems do not use AFFF, instead using sprinklers or Class A foams.
Is Aqueous Film Forming Foam Hazardous?
Aqueous film forming foam is considered hazardous by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration due to its ability to irritate the eyes and skin.
In September 2022, the EPA announced that some PFAS are now considered hazardous waste. Because certain AFFF compounds contain these PFAS, any release into the environment requires reporting and following specific hazardous waste disposal regulations.
Due to the environmental and health concerns associated with PFAS compounds, including their persistence in the environment and potential toxicity, the disposal of AFFF containing PFAS is often subject to strict regulations and guidelines.
AFFF that contain PFAS may be classified as hazardous waste, and special handling, treatment, or disposal procedures may be required to mitigate the environmental impact.
Is Aqueous Film Forming Foam Discontinued?
Initiatives to reduce and phase out the use of AFFF that contain PFAS are happening across the United States due to the restrictions on using PFAS-containing firefighting foams, especially in non-emergency training exercises. This also includes the potential health hazards of exposure for anyone who has come in contact with AFFF.
The U.S. Military will stop using AFFF by October 2024, and the Federal Aviation Administration will follow soon after. Most states have already introduced or passed legislation banning the use of AFFF for firefighters during operations or training.
Currently, these industries are actively researching and testing alternative firefighting foams that are less harmful to the environment and health.
As for the rest of the world, other countries are taking notice of the dangers of AFFF and developing plans to move away from the fire suppressant.
Illnesses Related to Aqueous Film Forming Foam?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies PFOA as a 2B carcinogen. 2B carcinogens are possibly carcinogenic to humans.
According to researchers with the Department of Defense and the EPA, exposure to AFFF can lead to:
- Changes in fetal and child development
- Changes in the immune system
- Cholesterol problems
- Fertility issues
- Increased risk of testicular, kidney, and other cancers
- Liver damage
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension/preeclampsia
- Thyroid disease
- Ulcerative colitis
That’s why industries must remove AFFF from their buildings and machines immediately.
The Aqueous Film Forming Foam Lawsuit
Across the country, U.S. Military firefighters and aviation firefighters have begun to file lawsuits against 3M, DuPont, and other companies as they believe those companies sold products despite known health risks.
As of August 2023, there are 3,300 plaintiffs in the AFFF Lawsuit.
How Do You Get Rid of Aqueous Film Forming Foam?
The best way to remove Aqueous Film Forming Foam is by working alongside trained professionals at a hazardous waste removal company. They have the experience, education, and know-how to safely remove AFFF from your facility without endangering your employees or the environment.
HWH Environmental works with businesses nationwide, assisting in removing Aqueous Film Forming Foam from their buildings.
Need Help with Hazardous Waste Removal? Contact HWH Environmental Today.
While one of the most effective ways to fight fires, Aqueous Film Forming Foam’s environmental dangers highlight the need for industries nationwide to dispose of this hazardous waste.
If your business has used or leftover Aqueous Film Forming Foam, reach out to Hazardous Waste Haulers, and one of our disposal experts will immediately assist you.