CONTENT PREVIEW
Equipment

Airbases detox as firefighters adopt safer foam

12 May 2017
The US Air Force and US Navy are phasing out the use in firefighting of potentially environmentally hazardous aqueous film-forming foam (pictured is a training exercise at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas). Source: USAF/Kia Atkins

The US Air Force (USAF) and US Navy (USN) are switching to safer aircraft firefighting foam, after tests showed that chemicals used for decades by military firefighters contain carcinogens, which have contaminated drinking water on and near military installations.

The use of foam containing toxic chemicals has spawned numerous civil lawsuits over drinking water contamination, as concern has also been raised about firefighter exposure to the chemicals. But the problem can be limited to a degree through the use of a system developed to eliminate pollution during mandatory testing of aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) vehicles.

Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is used primarily by firefighters to extinguish Class B (flammable liquid) fuel fires. It contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

In 2002, 3M, the primary manufacturer of AFFF with PFOS, voluntarily phased it out of production in the United States. Even so, much legacy AFFF with PFOS remains. One study in 2011 calculated that about 10,000 tonnes of PFOS-based firefighting foam was still in stock or in service in the United States. Estimates for the Asia-Pacific region are that 30-40 percent of all foam stocks are still PFOS-based. In 2006, eight major companies voluntarily agreed to phase out their global production of PFOA, although there are a limited number of ongoing uses for it.

PFOA and PFOS were used in decades past to make carpets, fabric, microwave popcorn bags, fast-food wrappers, and 'non-stick' fry pans resistant to water, grease, or stains.

While consumer products and food are a large source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source in the small percentage of communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination can occur near military airfields, where they were used in the aftermath of an aircraft crash or for firefighter training.

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RELEVANT PROFILE LISTINGS

  • ABEID AMANI KARUME INTL

    ZNZ/HTZA AIRFIELD REF PT.: S06 13.20 E039 13.30 ELEVATION : 54' 16m CFR : 9 MAX RWY LENGTH : 9,865' 3,007 m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 18/36, 9,865' 3,007 m, width 148' 45 m, asphalt, PCN 42 F/A/W/T. ADDITIONAL RUNWAYS : None. RUNWAY LIGHTING : Rwy 18: LIRL, SALS, PAPI.Rwy 36: LIRL, SALS,

  • AIR FORCE BASE WATERKLOOF

    WKF/FAWK AIRFIELD REF PT.: S25 49.48 E028 13.21 ELEVATION : 4940' 1506m CFR : 0 MAX RWY LENGTH : 11,000' 3,353m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 01/19, 11,001' 3,353 m, width 148' 45 m, ashphalt. ADDITIONAL RUNWAYS : Rwy 06/24 6,299'1920 m width 148'45 m, asphalt NAVIGATION AIDS : VORTAC

  • AL AHSA INTL

    HOF/OEAH AIRFIELD REF PT.: N25 17.07 E049 29.06 ELEVATION : 588' 179m CFR : 0 MAX RWY LENGTH : 10,039' 3,060m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 16/34, 10,039' 3,060 m, width 148' 45 m, asphalt NEAREST TOWN/CITY : Al-Ahssa (15 km). AIRFIELD OPERATOR : Al-Ahssa Airport, Hofuf 31982. PHONE : +966

  • BENINA INTL

    BEN/HLLB AIRFIELD REF PT.: N32 05.49 E020 16.10 ELEVATION : 433' 132m CFR : 0 MAX RWY LENGTH : 11, 732' 3,576 m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 15R/33L, 11, 732' 3,576 m, width 148' 45 m, asphalt. ADDITIONAL RUNWAYS : Rwy 15L/33R, 11, 732' 3,576 m, width 148' 45 m, asphalt. NEAREST TOWN/CITY :

  • CAM LY DALAT

    None/VVCL AIRFIELD REF PT.: N11 56.34 W108 24.54 ELEVATION : 4937' 1505m CFR : 0 MAX RWY LENGTH : 4,560' 1,390 m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 10L/28R, 4,560' 1,390 m, asphalt NAVIGATION AIDS : NDB (ID DL, 385 kHz). FREQUENCY : 118.3 MHz. ALTERNATIVE NAME(S) : Dalat. NEAREST TOWN/CITY :

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