Navigating Proper AFFF Fire Extinguisher Disposal

For decades, Aqueous Film Forming Foam was the market’s most potent, most efficient fire suppressant. Used by airports, oil refineries, and the U.S. military, AFFF fire extinguishers provide firefighters with the necessary tools to fight challenging fires.

But within the last few years, due to its environmental and human hazards, states have begun banning AFFF fire extinguishers. As a result, there is a new push for AFFF fire extinguisher disposal from industries across the country.

For proper disposal of an AFFF fire extinguisher, your only option is to work with a hazardous waste disposal company. Keep reading to learn more about AFFF fire extinguishers and how to contact a disposal company for assistance.

What is AFFF?

Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) is a specialized firefighting foam effective against Class B fires (gasoline, oil, and jet fuel).

Developed in the 1960s by the U.S. Navy and 3M, AFFF works by cutting off oxygen, cooling, and then extinguishing fires.

However, due to environmental concerns and its use of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), AFFF is banned in most states. The U.S. military plans to stop using it in October 2024.

Class A vs. Class B Foam

There are two types of firefighting foam: Class A and Class B.

Class A foam relies primarily on water to fight fires. The foam “creates air bubbles when aerated that allow the fluid that drains from foam bubbles to be easily absorbed by fuel, soil, and other materials that it comes into contact with.” It’s especially effective in suppressing wildland fires.

Because Class A foam is a concentrated synthetic detergent, there is always the chance of irritation if any gets on your skin or your eyes. But since water is an active ingredient in Class A fire fighting foam, there aren’t any life-long severe consequences.

Aqueous Film Forming Foam makes up Class B foam. Class B foam is incredibly effective for flammable petroleum fires and spills, refineries, and oil and gas storage facilities.

On the other hand, Class B firefighting foam contains PFAS, which the Environmental Protection Agency declared hazardous to the environment and humans. As a result, AFFFs are being slowly removed from military bases, fire stations, and other industrial sites as states continue to ban them. Other countries have yet to ban AFFF but are considering legislation and regulations.

Types of AFFF Fire Extinguishers

At one point, Aqueous Film Forming Foam fire extinguishers were the most common type on the market. They work well against Class A and B fires in 1%, 3%, or 6% type concentrate types.

Unlike other extinguishers, technique and application matters less as the foam suffocates the flames from any nearby oxygen, preventing them from growing larger.

What Are AFFF Fire Extinguishers Used For?

Aqueous Film Forming Foam fights Class B fires.

AFFF fire extinguishers can be found in:

  • Chemical plants
  • Flammable liquid storage and processing facilities
  • Merchant operations (oil tankers, offshore platforms)
  • Municipal services (fire departments, firefighting training centers)
  • Oil refineries, terminals
  • Paint stores
  • Locations with flammable liquids or containers
  • Bulk fuel storage farms
  • Aviation operations (aircraft rescue and firefighting, hangars)
  • Civilian airports
  • Some industrial fire extinguishers
  • Military facilities.

Why Are AFFF Fire Extinguishers Dangerous?

Aqueous Film Forming Foam contains PFAS, which does not break down over time. Because of that, any discharged AFFF lingers in the environment, potentially contaminating soil and water supplies.

According to researchers with the Department of Defense and the EPA, exposure to AFFF can lead to:

  • Asthma
  • 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

How to Dispose of AFFF Fire Extinguishers

The only way to properly dispose of a fire extinguisher with AFFF is by working alongside a dedicated hazardous waste disposal company. Any exposure to AFFF is dangerous and requires trained professionals in the removal of hazardous waste to ensure your business abides by any environmental protections and guidelines.

HWH Environmental are experts in AFFF fire extinguisher disposal as our team has decades of hazardous waste removal experience under our belts. Once you speak with an HWH Environmental representative, a team will come by your building, pick up your AFFF fire extinguishers, and dispose of them properly.

Need Help with Other Hazardous Wastes? Give HWH Environmental a Call Today.

Whether you’re in need of hand sanitizer disposal or hazardous chemical waste removal, HWH Environmental has the knowledge and expertise to be your trusted partner in hazardous waste removal. 

HWH Environmental works within all federal and local government regulations to help your employees stay safe and remove any type of hazardous waste from your facility.

Contact us today for a free quote on your hazardous waste removal.

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