Fire Fighting Foam


Pentagon Report

A pentagon report referenced in a 9/13/19 Military Times article stated that the number of active and former bases with contamination from PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance ), highly toxic chemicals in fire fighting foam, is about to grow. The last count by the Pentagon in Autumn 2018 was that approximately 90 Army and ANG bases were contaminated. They now expect similar numbers from the Air Force and Navy this fall.

What is Wrong with Fire Fighting Foams?

AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foams, contain high concentrations of PFOS to extinguish specific types of fires such as aircraft/jet fuel fires. The problem with PFOS and PFAS is that, unlike other chemicals, they do not degrade over time in the environment. Most find their way into local ground source water supplies and then into local drinking water supplies.

What illnesses are associated with PFOS and PFAS?

A study in 2004 identified increased risks of the following due to fire fighting foam:

  • Prostate Cancer/Testicular Cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Leukemia

In 2012, Emory University showed an increased risk to the following diseases due to PFOS and PFAS:

  • Multiple Myelomas
  • Mesothelioma
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
  • Kidney Cancer and non-cancer kidney diseases

The EPA has also linked PFOS and PFOAs to:

  • Low birth weights
  • Accelerated puberty
  • Skeletal variations
  • Liver effects such as tissue damage
  • Immune effects such as antibody production and immunities
  • Thyroid effects
  • Cholesterol changes

Is there an alternative?

In the 1990s, several companies including 3M and Pyrocool Tech developed fluorine-free foam (FFF) that tested equally as well as the AFFF for putting out jet fuel fires set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. DuPont has lobbied heavily against these products with the Department of Defense. In the last two decades, several companies developed FFF foams that are up to 97% biodegradable, but the military continues to use the toxic foams.

What Can Veterans Do if They Were Exposed?

There is still a lot we do not know about the long term health effects of PFOS and PFAS. However, there are already reports of high concentrations at these bases. If a Veteran has a health concern, getting an independent medical opinion is vital in identifying the health conditions and having an expert find scientific links for those conditions to the toxins that Veterans were exposed to.


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