What is AFFF?
Aqueous film-forming foam, while very effecting in extinguishing class B fires, contains a group of dangerous chemicals that are known as PFAS. As a group of artificial chemicals, PFAS were initially manufactured for the Manhattan Project, whose purpose was to create the nuclear bomb for World War II. Fluorine gas, a gas so strong that it can burn water and steel, was used to separate uranium for the manufacturing of nuclear bombs. Minnesota is Ground Zero for the contamination with PFAS which is occurring in the entire country. The chemicals are in the blood of everyone by now.
In 1950, the company 3M bought the facility in Minnesota to continue manufacturing PFAS. They also began including PFAS in aqueous film-forming foam, also known as AFFF, which all firefighters have since been using to extinguish class B fires. The company was also selling the chemicals to DuPont, another notorious business that made use of PFAS for the production of Teflon, a non-stick material used for cookware. By virtue of the ability to repel oil, water, and stains, as well as to withstand temperatures of 1,700 degrees, PFAS soon became a commercial success. However, the chemicals are non-biodegradable and thereby persist in the environment and in the human body once inhaled or ingested, being able to lead to the development of serious diseases such as kidney cancer, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer.
Unsurprisingly, 3M has been aware all along of the devastating effects of exposure to PFAS on the human body, but it chose to subvert science and cover up the scientific evidence supporting the toxicity of the chemicals. In 2000, the company stopped manufacturing PFAS. Nevertheless, before it ceased the production of the chemicals, it has been gaining almost one-half a billion dollars every year from selling PFAS. One piece of evidence that 3M was aware of the toxicity of PFAS from the beginning was the label they gave DuPont when selling the chemicals to the company, label which stated "CANCER: WARNING: Contains a chemical which can cause cancer".
Who can be harmed by the fire suppressant AFFF?
The most studied toxic chemicals in AFFF are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Originally produced by 3M, these compounds have been used in manufacturing all kinds of chemical products. Although efficient, PFASs have unique properties that cause them to persist, accumulate in the blood and body of people exposed to them, and are also extremely persistent in the environment and likely have toxic effects on human health.
Those most affected by exposure to AFFF are firefighters who worked in:
- Firefighting training areas
- Aircraft crash sites
- Military airport hangars
The U.S. military used AFFF during firefighter training and during emergencies. AFFF containing PFAS has also been used in various ways by the U.S. Navy, and other branches of the military, since 1960.
Therefore, individuals at the greatest risk of harm from AFFF are the firefighters who use it, Air Force personnel who were directly exposed to it, those who manufacture the foam, and people living near military bases where AFFF was used.
Firefighting foam and groundwater contamination