The Firefighting foam AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam, used to be the widely used material to stop fires, especially those caused by fuel and other flammable liquids. Most users find this firefighting substance convenient to use.
It was the primary accessory taken on board maritime vessels and firefighting trucks. It’s also used in establishments and many homes.
It’s found effective in containing the vapors from flammable liquids. Dangerous vapors are released into the atmosphere when flammable substances are heated or on fire.
The foam used in firefighting provides a barrier against smoke, which stops it from rising into the air. The firefighters and people who are adjacent or downwind from the fire hazard will be able to work in a safer atmosphere because of this vapor-containing property.
However, recent studies showed many adverse effects of the commonly used AFFF or firefighting foam, not only to the first-hand users but also to the environment.
Some Ways Fire-Fighting Foam Affects The Environment
1. It Endangers Your Health
The AFFF is known to contain perfluorooctane sulfonate, perfluorooctanoic acid and other chemicals that are found to cause cancer. Some studies also deduced that a high concentration of these substances in the human body may cause kidney, testicular, and other cancers.
Because of these adverse effects, many affected individuals instituted an AFFF fire fighting foam lawsuit. It’s to seek relief from the damage or ill effects they suffered due to their exposure to the firefighting foam.
These foams are usually left behind after the fire is put off. The fire may no longer be a threat. Still, the fire-ravaged spot and surrounding communities may be threatened with the hazards of the substances from AFFF foam after the fire.
Sometimes the byproducts of combustion and the residues left behind by the fire are significantly more toxic to human health than the used extinguisher. These byproducts of combustion include carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, known to be irritating and harmful to the exposed individuals’ upper respiratory tract and the lungs.
2. It Affects The Air You Breathe
The AFFF in fire extinguishers is host to various chemicals that don’t break down easily and causes damage over time. This firefighting agent also contains ethanol, a chemical which is a type of glycol ether. These chemicals belong to those types of organic solvents considered to be hazards and air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
You should check if you have fire extinguishers and related hazards around the house. Removing and placing them safely in your outdoor storage may be the best idea to upgrade the air quality you breathe indoors.
Proper storage and disposal of these pollutants will also help you avoid other health risks like anemia, goiter problems and other known ill effects.
3. It Contaminates Surface Water
Residents who reside in close proximity to a firefighting training site, an airport, or a military base have an increased risk of having their drinking water contaminated with chemicals that cause cancer.
When these fire extinguishers are used to put out fires, the chemicals in them have a high potential to sink underneath and poison surrounding water deposits or groundwater. These are non-biodegradable substances that also cause water pollution. It will ultimately contaminate the water consumed by the surrounding communities, affecting the health of the people and the animals in these areas.
According to recent national water quality evaluations, more than one-third of the lakes and almost half of the rivers and streams in the United States are polluted. Some areas are close to the point where they cannot be used for fishing, swimming, or even for livestock drinking water.
A growing body of research in the scientific community links AFFF water contamination to various health problems, including cancer, asthma, difficulties in fetal and infant development, liver illnesses and other diseases.
4. It Disrupts Healthy Ecosystems
A robust ecosystem depends on an intricate web of organisms, including bacteria, animals, plants, and fungi, all interacting directly or indirectly. Any one of these organisms being harmed can set off a chain reaction that jeopardizes the entire aquatic and land habitat.
The contaminants, like the released substances from fire extinguishers or firefighting foams, are toxic to some living organisms. In most cases, this has the effect of limiting an organism’s life span as well as its capacity for reproduction. Their impact on marine and land life works their way up the food chain as predators consume prey.
Ultimately, hazardous particles and chemicals that fish, crustaceans and animals living in contaminated environments take into their bodies will likewise threaten the health of humans and other animals that consume them.
The risk, side effects or harm these chemicals pose to the consumers at the end of the food chain may be greater than those at its frontlines.
It’s why governments worldwide have actively regulated the use of AFFF. Measures have been installed, and users who cannot substitute these substances are mandated to manage them effectively.
Although the quantity of AFFF at petroleum facilities has probably been cut down somewhat since then, huge volumes are still present at military facilities and in many airports. Compliance with federal requirements by these installations requires them to continue using AFFF.
Whether good or bad, sowing really gets you reaping its effects. You may not be the one sowing or using these firefighting foams, but you may still get harmed by its after-effects if you’re not careful.
The discussions about the hidden dangers found in firefighting foams will help you see through the benefits and risks of working around these fire extinguishers. The benefits may not outweigh the chances you have of suffering later.
Though you have relief available if you sustain damage due to misuse and mismanagement of these substances, it’s still preferable that you don’t get harmed in the first place. The links in this section may help you know more about the effects and the environmental impacts of aqueous film-forming foam on you and your surroundings.
In most cases, it does not matter how significant the damage it may cause. It is about how you can help prevent the adverse effects from occurring in the first place.