PFAS “Forever Chemicals” in Firefighting Foam and Gear
Firefighters shouldn’t have to worry that the tools they use to fight fires are giving them cancer. And, drinking water and communities shouldn’t be contaminated by the hazardous chemicals put into these tools.
But that is exactly the problem we face. Highly toxic, persistent PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), that are linked to cancer, are put into firefighting foam and are one of the major causes of drinking water contamination for millions of people across the country. These foams, designed for oil fires, have been used at training facilities, airports, military bases and in municipal firefighting for decades.
The gear that firefighters use is also laden with PFAS chemicals. This is extremely concerning given the fact that the number one cause of death among firefighters is cancer.
Firefighters and the communities they protect are suffering the devastating health impacts of exposure to these “forever chemicals” because they are linked to a range of health impacts from cancer to immune suppression. Taxpayers are also paying billions to clean up the mess.
Current lawsuits have uncovered evidence that the chemical industry knew the dangers of these chemicals, but continued to make and sell them.
It is time to end this major source of exposure for firefighters and the pollution of drinking water and communities.
Toxic-Free Future works with firefighters and others in the fire service, as well as local, state, and national partners to end the use of PFAS firefighting foams and gear and to ensure substitutes are safer.
- Washington state became the first state in the nation to place restrictions on PFAS in firefighting foam and require the disclosure of PFAS in firefighting gear in March 2018.
- Other states have followed Washington’s lead, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.
- Congress required the FAA to allow the use of PFAS-free foam to be used at airports by 2021, but it is still not being used as of February 2023. A recent action by the military to change foam requirements takes one step closer to PFAS-free foams being a reality at airports.
- Congress required the military to end their use of PFAS foams by October 2024. As part of the phase out plan for the military, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released a revised military specification (“mil spec”) for the purchase and use of firefighting foam free of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.).
- GreenScreen Certified™, run by our partners at Clean Production Action, has identified 35 firefighting foams from 11 manufacturers that meet a standard for PFAS-free and don’t contain other hazardous chemicals. It is the only green certification in the world.