In the United States, firefighters at around 500 airports are continuing to use a toxic firefighting foam to fight aircraft fires, despite its link to cancer.


Toxic AFFF in Military Bases and Airports

The type of foam that several hundred airports are still using firefighting foam, otherwise known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). In addition to airports, the foam is also used by the U.S. military because it extinguishes fires fast and effectively. PFAS, the toxic chemicals that are present in the foam, have been the cause for concern in the last couple of years. Tainted water was revealed at military bases, which prompted a massive clean-up effort by the Department of Defense to the tune of billions of dollars. Airport firefighters are still using AFFF, and many of them worry that the foam that’s saving other peoples’ lives could be putting their own lives at risk.

Studies have shown that PFAS chemicals are linked to certain types of cancer and a variety of other health issues. The department chief at Greater Rochester International Airport, Captain Kevin Bardeen, is now treating the foam like it was hazmat materials. The department is only using the foam for emergencies, now that they have realized how dangerous it is.

Individuals who have been exposed to the foam and have been diagnosed with cancer are taking legal action. In addition, motivated lawmakers are beginning to make changes in certain states as the number of cancer diagnoses continues to rise. Vermont, North Carolina, Maryland, Iowa, Illinois, Connecticut, California, and Alaska are proposing that the foam be banned. Four other states have already banned the foam including, New York however, Greater Rochester International Airport continues to use the toxic foam because the Federal Aviation Administration still mandates it. Until there is an alternate agent, they have no other choice, according to Bardeen.

It could take years to find an alternative firefighting foam. Back in 2018, Congress requested that the FAA stop using PFAS firefighting foam by the year 2021. In December, the agency started testing alternative chemicals in a new $5 million dollar lab.

Once the federal government has selected an alternative foam, Bardeen realizes that airports will not only need to acquire the new product, their trucks will also need to be upgraded in order to use it. It will be four to five years before airport firefighters will be able to transition out of using PFAS foam, thus mitigating its risk.

Protecting Firefighters From Toxic Firefighting Foam

A lot of airports have decided not to take any chances. Equipment containing AFFF is bagged up and decontaminated, in addition to reserving the foam for only emergencies to help protect the firefighters. It does not calm the fears of those who have used the foam in the past.

Over 30,000 gallons of toxic fluorochemical foam were collected from commercial airports in Michigan and its municipal fire departments. State officials believe that this will be the nation’s largest disposal and collection program in existence. On June 16, Michigan’s fire marshal’s office, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and the Michigan Department of Environment announced a new milestone for their poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) foam disposal program. EGLE estimates that around 32,000 gallons of Class B AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) were collected and shipped to a hazardous waste landfill located in Grand Ville, Idaho since December. The program is entirely voluntary – not all fire departments are required to surrender their Class B foam, primarily because it may still be needed to fight future fires on local highways.

The Environmental Working Group and other environmental advocates have called for the military and airports to stop using PFAS firefighting foam right away, as there are a variety of other alternatives that already exist. Many of these alternative formulas are currently being used at major airports in other parts of the world, including Dubai, Paris, and London, as well as by the military in foreign countries.

In a recent report from the FAA, the agency said that while there are relatively new fluorine-free foams (FFFs) available that have the potential to replace current AFFF foams, they still have not been proven to possess the fire extinguishing capabilities of the existing foams. This could delay fire extinguishment, as additional trucks would be required as well as additional capacity for the foam when every second is precious. The FAA will evaluate and assess the performance standards for FFFs before they are used in airports.    

Get in Contact with Qualified AFFF Plaintiffs

Broughton Partners finds victims of dangerous products who are in need of legal help or are actively seeking legal representation. Broughton Partners closely partners with your law firm by providing you with retained plaintiffs who are vetted, prequalified, and follow your case criteria. 

As airports continue to use firefighting foam, more potential plaintiffs will emerge. Bringing in new toxic foam clients in an efficient way without sacrificing the needs of your current clients and the daily demands of your firm is a challenge at best. Broughton Partners is here to give you a competitive advantage by connecting you with more qualified plaintiffs that need your representation today.

Call Broughton Partners today at (855) 463-1735, or contact us for your free consultation.