What is firefighting foam?
Water has long been a universal agent for suppressing fires but is not necessarily the best choice for all cases and certain classes of fires.
Firefighting foams are a fire-extinguishing agent for flammable and combustible liquids. Unlike other extinguishing agents such as water, dry chemicals, CO2, etc., a stable foam can extinguish a flammable or combustible liquid fire.
They do this by the combined mechanisms of cooling, separating the flame/ignition source from the flame/product surface, suppressing vapors, and smothering the fire until it’s extinguished.
Dangers of Conventional Firefighting Foams – PFAS
Conventional firefighting foams contain several dangerous components: A combination of water, pressurized air, polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS), or perfluorochemicals (PFCs) substances.
The mixture of these substances is more effective at controlling fires than just water, especially fuel-based fires. However, unlike water and air, PFAS and PFCs are human-made chemicals that do not break down over time.
Once dispersed, the chemicals can reside in a human’s body, going undetected for years and run into local water sources without anyone realizing it. (“Firefighting foam linked to health issues like cancer,” 2019) Firefighters run a considerable risk of cancer when exposed to these harmful chemicals.
Also, if humans consume water or food products contaminated with PFAS or PFCs, they could develop serious health problems such as:
- Testicular and kidney cancer
- Thyroid disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Other health issues, such as hormonal imbalances