The first fluorine-based foam concentrate was developed in the 1960s. It contained fluorinated surfactants which allowed the foam to quickly cover burning liquids and aid in cooling and extinguishing fires. Its very high efficiency has been demonstrated (European Chemicals Agency).
For many years, fire fighting foam concentrates have contained fluorinated surfactants, PFAS. They are also known as “eternal chemicals” because they are persistent in the environment and can “fix” in the blood of humans and animals. These are perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). A foam concentrate that contains floating film forming agents (AFFF) contains PFCs, precursors releasing PFOS, PFOA or PFHxA.
The use of fluorinated organic compounds is common in the fire fighting foam concentrate industry due to their performance enhancing effects. However, alternatives are possible and have been developing for some years.
BIO-EX marketed its first fluorine-free foam concentrate in 2002. The environmental challenge was to convince its customers to choose its new generation green products, 100% non-fluorinated and with proven effectiveness.
“We didn’t just replace the fluorinated surfactant, we also worked on all the components of the formula to develop the best possible product,” says Ms. Rossard.
Collaboration with research institutes and significant research and development activities were required to ensure a successful substitution that met European standards for fire fighting foam concentrates. BIO-EX’s main challenge was to give its foam concentrates sufficient heat and solvent resistance as well as a high level of quench performance and re-ignition resistance. The development of its first fluorine-free product took three years. The company is now able to develop new foam concentrates in one or two years.
Source: European Chemicals Agency
Ban and phase-out actions have been taken globally to ban PFOS and PFOA products in the past five years. However, other more recent fluorinated products are not yet prohibited! The risk is indeed to replace the PFOA (or C8) by shorter fluorinated chains (C6). These less “toxic” for living beings, however, remain extremely persistent and more mobile (source: ARCADIS).
At present, there are 3 regulatory texts which govern fluorides in foam concentrates:
– Regulation 757/2010 on PFOS. Fire-fighting foams that contain PFOS have been banned for sale and use since June 27, 2011.
– Regulation 2017-1000 (PFOA or C8). Blends of firefighting foam concentrates (which contain PFOA) placed on the market before July 4, 2020 that are to be used or are used in the production of other firefighting foam blends must be below 25µg/l of PFOA Foam concentrates placed on the market after this date must not contain PFOA (above the threshold)
– Regulation 2020/784 (PFOA or C8) . By way of derogation, the use of PFOA is authorised, until July 4, 2025, in fire-fighting foam subject to the following conditions:
a) It should not be used for training.
b) It should not be used for testing unless all releases are contained.
c) from 1 January 2023, the use of fire-fighting foams containing or which may contain PFOA is only authorized on sites where it is possible to contain all the discharges.
After this date they will be prohibited on all sites.
The necessary balance between safety and respect for the environment.
LauguiConcept, in partnership with the company BioEx, offers fire-fighting foam concentrates that do not contain PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or C8) or PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). The fire-fighting foam concentrate you choose must meet the specific needs of your site, in terms of risks, existing fire equipment… it is the search for this balance that must guide your choice(s).
Non-fluorinated foam concentrate is now a viable alternative, which also offers high performance fire protection.
We are able to advise you and offer you both the latest generation C6 fluorinated fire fighting foam concentrates and high-performance non-fluorinated foam concentrates.
More information on the European Chemicals Agency website (https://echa.europa.eu)