AFFF vs. Health: Balancing Firefighting Needs and Public Safety

AFFF vs. Health: Balancing Firefighting Needs and Public Safety

People might not think about it often, but in emergency situations, they rely on the brave men of the firefighting community to protect them. Firefighters stand as the first line of defense against the destructive power of fire, safeguarding lives and property.

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It’s a role that comes with great responsibility, and they employ various tools and techniques to tackle the challenges they face. One such tool in the firefighter’s arsenal is Aqueous Film-Forming Foam, or AFFF for short. It’s a substance designed to extinguish dangerous fires rapidly, allowing our heroes to do their job effectively.

However, recent research has raised questions about the use of AFFF by connecting it to various health risks. In this context, firefighters must strike a balance between their safety and public safety. In this blog, you’ll discover how this firefighting form is crucial in firefighting efforts, but you’ll also gain insight into the potential health risks it poses.

Why is AFFF Dangerous to Health?

AFFF, while effective in firefighting, poses health risks due to its chemical composition. A key concern is the presence of per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are used in these forms to suppress fires. PFAS are known to remain within the body, and they are also carcinogenic. These harmful substances are linked to several health problems.

A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine explored the impact of AFFF on human cells. The researchers found that all types of firefighting forms they examined caused harm to cells. It also significantly slowed down their growth, even when they used concentrations much lower than what firefighters use to put out fires.

Even though PFAS-containing forms are used less in firefighting now, the AFFFs they tested still caused problems for cells. This shows that there is an urgent need to make stricter rules about using firefighting forms with PFAS.

Health Implications of AFFF

This fire extinguisher carries concerning health implications primarily due to the presence of PFAS in its composition. Several studies have revealed that exposure to AFFF can result in severe health conditions. This points to potential risks, particularly for firefighters and those residing near areas where firefighting form has been applied.

As per TorHoerman Law, Class-B aqueous film-forming foams are deemed hazardous. They contain PFAS chemicals, which have been associated with a range of negative health consequences, including different forms of cancer.

Severe health conditions have prompted firefighters to take a strong legal stance against the manufacturers of these foams. With the assistance of an attorney, victims are filing an AFFF lawsuit to hold manufacturers accountable for not disclosing the side effects of their products.

These lawsuits also aim to raise awareness so that regulatory bodies can impose a ban on these products. By doing so, their goal is to minimize the health impact of these firefighting foams.

Strategies to Protect Firefighters

In the challenging landscape where firefighting needs intersect with public safety, it’s crucial for firefighters to adopt strategies that protect their well-being. With the health implications of AFFF in mind, let’s explore three practical strategies that can help firefighters safeguard their health.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Wearing appropriate PPE is a frontline defense against exposure to these harmful products. Firefighters should ensure they have access to high-quality gear, including suits, gloves, and masks, designed to minimize skin contact and inhalation of AFFF particles. PPE can significantly reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals, enhancing the overall safety of firefighting personnel.

With the growing importance of these kits in fire-related operations, the demand is likely to spike in the upcoming years. According to Stellar Market Research, the firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) industry reached an estimated valuation of around $1.81 billion in 2022. Moreover, the industry is expected to reach approximately $2.53 billion by 2029.

Training and Education:

Proper training is fundamental. Firefighters should stay informed about the potential dangers associated with firefighting forms, understand their usage, and learn how to handle them safely. Training programs and educational resources can provide essential knowledge to ensure they use fire extinguishers while minimizing health risks.

Safer Foam Alternatives:

As the need for effective firefighting methods persists, exploring and advocating for safer foam alternatives is paramount. Today, a growing number of fluorine-free and next-generation firefighting foams are being developed.

Encouraging the adoption of these alternatives can reduce the health impact of AFFF. Firefighters should actively participate in discussions surrounding these alternatives and advocate for their use to protect public health and safety.

Top Alternatives to AFFF

As the health concerns related to these forms become more evident, it’s essential to explore safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives for firefighting. Firefighters and regulatory bodies are increasingly looking to transition away from these products, considering the potential risks they pose.

Let’s delve into some of the top alternatives that are gaining traction to replace AFFF in fire suppression efforts.

Fluorine-Free Foam

Fluorine-free foams, often referred to as “F3” foams, are becoming a preferred alternative to AFFF. These foams are designed to effectively extinguish fires while eliminating the use of PFAS, which has raised health and environmental concerns. Transitioning to fluorine-free foams can reduce the potential harm to both firefighters and the environment.

Moreover, this type of form is now being utilized at various places like airports, military operations, industries prone to fire accidents, etc. Under the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, the U.S. Navy is required to publish a new military standard for fluorine-free foam by January 2023. The Navy is mandated to complete a full shift to fluorine-free firefighting foams by October 2024.

Protein-Based Foam:

Protein-based firefighting foams, derived from natural sources like animal proteins or plant proteins, are another promising alternative. They offer a bio-based and eco-friendly solution for fire suppression. These foams are biodegradable, making them less harmful to ecosystems, and they are free from PFAS, reducing health risks associated with exposure to firefighting forms.

High-Expansion Foam

High-expansion foams are especially useful in situations where rapid fire control is not the primary concern. They are known for their effectiveness in creating a thick, long-lasting blanket over a fire. This can reduce the need for large quantities of AFFF. This alternative foam can be advantageous for controlling and containing fires without the same health and environmental concerns associated with firefighting forms.

Firefighters Too Deserve Safety

In the pursuit of safeguarding the communities, it’s essential to remember that firefighters, too, deserve safety. The health implications associated with AFFF are not only a concern for those they protect but also for those on the front lines. By prioritizing the well-being of our firefighters, we can work toward a safer, healthier future for all.


I'm a technology content writer with a solid track record, boasting over five years of experience in the dynamic field of content marketing. Over the course of my career, I've collaborated with a diverse array of companies, producing a wide spectrum of articles that span industries, ranging from news pieces to technical deep dives.