Toxic Firefighting Foams

 
 
 
Background
Cover of 2020 Report to Legislature - 2 firefighters battling a fire with a hose for PFAS FoamTo date, most discoveries of water with PFAS chemicals in Colorado have been linked to toxic firefighting foams. These foams can contaminate well water and drinking water supplies. To address this, the legislature passed the Firefighting Foams and Personal Protective Equipment Control Act (HB19-1279). The act focuses on reducing human exposure to PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam. 
One of the requirements is that the state public health department conduct surveys of fire departments’ possession, use, and disposal of toxic firefighting  foam once every three years. 
Toxic firefighting foams
Toxic firefighting foams fall into two main categories, Class A and Class B. Class A foams are used to extinguish fires caused by wood, paper, and plants, and they generally do not contain PFAS chemicals. Class B foams are used to put out fires caused by flammable liquids like gasoline, oil, and jet fuel, and they may contain PFAS chemicals. 
 
Class B foams can be divided into two categories: fluorinated foams, which contain PFAS chemicals, and fluorine-free foams, which do not. Many Class B foams are aqueous film-forming foams, or AFFF. All AFFF foams contain PFAS chemicals.
 
Whenever appropriate, fire departments should use fluorine-free Class B foams rather than fluorinated foams.
 
Toxic firefighting foams released to the environment
If you believe your fire department may have used firefighting foam with these chemicals during training or fire suppression, you may want to determine the extent of contamination. If you have a groundwater well on site, we recommend you contact labs and test for PFAS chemicals. We also recommend notifying the local water provider and local public health agency to help determine whether PFAS chemicals entered drinking water supplies. 
 
Contact
If PFAS chemicals are found in water samples taken at or near your site, please contact your local public health agency for further discussion. Additional resources and information can be found in the resources section above. 
 
Toxic firefighting foam resources