Posted on July 10th, 2020
Because AFFF is very effective in extinguishing class B fires, both civilian and military firefighters are still using the product, despite knowing that it contains PFOS and PFOA. These groups of chemicals can also infiltrate into the permeable soil, thereby endangering the health of residents over the years.
Since 1970, aqueous film-forming foam, commonly known as AFFF, has been used to extinguish class B fires by both civilian and military firefighters. However, AFFF contains PFOS and PFOA, two groups of chemicals that are carcinogenic to humans. Thereby, frequent exposure to AFFF can lead to the development of terrible diseases such as pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and prostate cancer. While companies are aware that the PFOS and PFOA present in AFFF can cause serious health problems, they still continue to employ it in their products, as it is very effective for putting out a wide range of fires. At the beginning of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency compiled a list of 8 carcinogenic agents, among which there were PFOS and PFOA, which they are planning to regulate by establishing a permissible, safe limit. Meanwhile, some companies are struggling to come up with non-toxic alternatives to AFFF.
Currently, AFFF is used by both civilian and military firefighters to extinguish fires which are caused by flammable liquids and gases, which refers to fires which stem from the following substances:
It is worthy of note that AFFF is also used in military training, which can greatly endanger the health of the people who are employing it, as exposure is very frequent. For this reason, both civilian and military firefighters have a high risk of developing a serious disease over the decades, as the diseases caused by exposure to the PFOS and PFOA in AFFF have a long latency period. They are often asymptomatic until they reach a very advanced stage, which takes a heavy toll on the prognosis of the patient, as well as on their life quality. Therefore, we strongly recommend firefighters to regularly undergo a medical examination, as they are very susceptible to develop a disease from the constant exposure to AFFF. Furthermore, the PFOS and PFOA in AFFF are known as "forever contaminants", which means that once they are released in the environment, they persist, creating a health hazard for the people who live in close proximity to polluted areas.
Prolonged exposure to AFFF can cause a wide range of cancers, as the PFOS and PFOA are classified by health organizations as "possible carcinogens". Nevertheless, there are numerous studies that support the causal relation between exposure to PFOS and PFOA and a series of malignant diseases. The following are only some of the diseases frequent exposure to AFFF can lead to over the years:
It is important to keep in mind that these diseases require several years or even several decades to develop, as the PFOS and PFOA in the body slowly causes damage to the organ they reach through the bloodstream. According to estimates, over 20% of firefighters will develop a disease as a consequence of frequent exposure to AFFF.