Currently, 40,000 Australians are suing the Federal Government for the use of toxic firefighting products on defence sites across Australia as part of the largest class action lawsuit in Australian history.
The firefighting foam products used on these sites contained per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a manmade group of chemicals that takes a significant amount of time to break down. PFAS are a group of chemicals that have been used around the world in Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFFs) that rapidly suppress and extinguish fires by cooling the fire and leaving a ‘film’ on the fuel surface, preventing its contact with oxygen.
PFAS chemicals can be introduced into the body through ingestion leading to long-term health consequences. PFAS exposure has been linked to bladder and liver cancer, endocrine disruption, and developmental and reproductive toxicity.
PFAS can have equally disastrous impacts on the environment as the chemicals producing this ‘film’ are highly persistent, bio-accumulate, and toxic as they can migrate to other environments. Apart from PFAS, firefighting foams can contain other chemicals such as glycols, solvents, hydrocarbon surfactants and carbohydrates which contribute to how biodegradable a product is and its resulting Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD). The COD refers to how much oxygen is consumed from a waterway while a chemical that breaks down with a high COD indicates a high level of short term toxicity. Fluoro free solvent free foams work by producing rapid moving foam that is very dense and thereby removing the contact of oxygen with the fuel surface without the need of film formation.
Queensland and South Australia are leading the way by banning or restricting firefighting foam products that contain PFAS, and as a signatory to the Stockholm Convention for the reduction of Persistent Organic Pollutants, the rest of the country is expected to follow suit.
Wormald has eliminated PFAS from its fire suppression products and has been working with Queensland and South Australian businesses to replace and dispose of AFFF firefighting foams.
Wormald’s exclusive partnership with 3F ensures a sustainable future using firefighting foams. 3F designs and manufactures high performance firefighting foams that minimise the environmental impact of firefighting in all sectors including, petrochemical, general chemical, waste, aviation, fire and emergency services, shipping, fixed fire suppression systems and portable fire extinguishers.
3F’s FREEDOL SF is a fluorine free and solvent free foam agent available locally via Wormald Australia. As a fluorine free product, FREEDOL SF is free of the persistent, toxic and bio-accumulative PFAS chemicals. Being free of solvents has the added environmental benefit of a significantly lower COD compared to other fluorine free foams and AFFFs. For example, a standard 6 per cent AFFF has a COD of 400 g/l. FREEDOL SF has a COD of 100 g/l. The lower COD results in less environmental impact as less oxygen is consumed while the product biodegrades.
Existing AFFF systems, either pre-engineered vehicle systems or fixed suppression systems, can be easily upgraded to use Fluorine Free and Solvent Free Foam from 3F. Minor modifications required include changes to proportioners or an increase in vehicle system cylinder pressure. Wormald has the expertise and experience to advise what system and product changes are required to convert to a more environmentally sensitive foam system without compromising fire protection performance.
If you would like more information about our sustainable fire suppression solutions, changes to legislation and how this affects your business, visit our dedicated page www.wormald.com.au/fff or call us on 133 166.