Firefighting foam: What on earth is going on?
With 2024 just around the corner, what is your future firefighting foam policy and how will your facility handle the management of change process needed to potentially drain, decontaminate and replenish foam systems? David Plant, Angus Fire, reports.
I spoke at the recent spoke at the recent JOIFF Summit and AFOA Conference on the need for foam users to be aware of and track the next wave of legislation, which is aimed specifically at the manufacture, sale and use of firefighting foams in Europe and around the world.
Just before Christmas 2019, the US Government passed legislation that requires the US Department of Defence (DoD) to stop buying and using fluorinated foams by 2024. Whilst there are some specific exemptions, this is a significant acceleration in the transition away from fluorinated foams.
In 2018, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) was mandated to permit the use of Fluorine Free Foams (F3) at FAA certified airports by October 2021. Indeed, this rate of change is being replicated all over the world. Washington State implemented a law that bans municipal firefighters from using fluorinated products by 2020 with California implementing a discharge prohibition for private companies in July 2019. South Australia passed a law in 2018 that by 2020 all fluorinated foam discharges would be a prosecutable offence and not sit with just the person who discharged it, but any person who permitted the discharge to take place.
In 2019, the United Nations (UN) published their guidance: ‘By the end of 2022… but no later than 2025, restrict uses of fire-fighting foam that contains, or may contain PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds to sites where all releases are contained’. The UN goes on to remind users that ‘… fluorine-based firefighting foams could have negative environmental, human health and socioeconomic impacts due to their persistency and mobility’.
For users in the UK and Europe, the rate of change follows the global trend with member countries agreeing with the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) in 2017, giving industry three years to comply. This means that by July 2020, the production and sale of foams containing higher than mandated levels of PFOA (C8) will be banned. For C6 products, Germany recently published their proposed restriction dossier for PHxA and ‘related substances’ which would severely restrict European manufacture, sale and use of C6 firefighting foams in about 2025 (although some delays should be expected). The German proposal is a clear indicator of how aggressive some countries would like the final rule to be, although Germany has proposed an exemption for specific military applications and for tank storage facilities – these are yet to be confirmed by ECHA.
So what does the future hold for manufacturers? Angus Fire launched its first Class B F3 product in 2002 and although demand was initially low, the next generation of high performing F3 products have taken the industry by surprise. Angus Fire has continued to develop and launch F3 and AR-F3 products and combined with our foam systems and devices, have a deep understanding of the direction of foam around the world. With film-forming products for aviation and EN, UL, Lastfire and IMO listed/certified products for industry, Angus Fire’s JetFoam ICAO-C and Respondol ATF are the highest performing F3 products on the market today.
Respondol ATF has been designed specifically for general emergency responders who are faced with a variety of risks. In addition to having UL listings in seawater, Respondol ATF has been approved to the IMO, International Maritime Organisation and has also passed Lastfire with excellent results not just in fresh water but also sea water.
JetFoam ICAO-C is a new breakthrough in the aviation industry. This 100 per cent biodegradable product is the world’s first film-forming fluorine free foam with ICAO Level C certification. It has been designed for extinguishing and securing flammable aviation fuel spills and fires (Jet A and Jet A1).
So what does the future hold for users? The key is understanding your facility’s risks, then to talk with foam producers to marry up a foam/foam system to meet your needs by mitigating your risks in a safe and responsible way. Angus Fire has a detailed conversion plan, which is scalable for any site ranging from an airport or a refinery through to a small or large municipal fire and rescue service.
The future is not what it used to be, and foam is front and centre of the conversation. To find out more about foam get in touch with Angus Fire at: www.angusfire.co.uk
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