PFOS Fire Fighting Foam – The QLD Solution

PFOS Fire Fighting Foam Banned in QLD

In a two part article written in the ASIA Pacific Fire Magazine, QLD have taken steps to ban the use of 3M Lightwater branded foam concentrates which contain and breakdown to PFOS.

The article suggests many were surprised the promised 3rd draft consultation by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection never materialised, when the Minister unexpectedly announced implementation of its final Policy on 8th July 2016.

Additionally in a statement released by the Queensland government, Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection was implementing a “strict policy with respect to firefighting foams and their environmental management.”

“Queensland is adamant that firefighting foams containing highly persistent organic pollutants including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) implicated in the contamination of the Oakey Defence base need to be phased out,’ Dr Miles said.

QLD has made a bold decision, lumping all firefighting fluorochemicals into an effective ban, requiring incineration alongside PFOS. Only Fluorine Free Foams (F3) are effectively allowed without full containment and disposal to WWTP in QLD. This goes far beyond any other jurisdiction in the world. Does it make sense? Is it supported by scientific research? Does it deliver least environmental impacts from foam’s use?

Fluorine Free Foam

The report within ASIA Pacific Fire Magazine asks, Is this QLD F3 focus a better idea, despite concentrating on foam agent impacts to the environment, while largely excluding many other important environmental considerations. Is this the right answer? Some say its too simplistic and blinkered a response to a far more complicated problem, is probably over-precautionary, and isn’t the right answer for many fire situations.

F3 agents benefit from being 100% bioadegradable without persistent ingredients. They are also advantageous for dispersive applications where no containment is possible, and for non-emergency training. However, they struggle with critical factors including:

  • Provide no fuel repelling capability – which is why fluorinated foams were developed originally!
  • Deliver poor vapour sealing
  • Provide slower control and extinction, with sudden, unpredictable flare ups and flashovers, that can result in greater escalation risks and re-involvement.
  • More damage is likely to result, particularly from larger events.
  • The ever-present increased life safety risks, increased firewater runoff, and typically 10 times higher aquatic toxicity than AFFFs.

Part two of their article will be release next issue.

To read the full article on part one click here