Firefighters are using a variety of different techniques so that they can extinguish the fire and save lives. For years now, the most powerful weapon for fighting fire has been water, which is transferred by gigantic hoses. However, today, some other things are used for fighting the blaze, and these are foams, powders, and even fire-extinguishing gases. Yet, there are some reasons why some of these tools can fail and even make the situation worse.
Specifically, newly produced, high-quality foam is incredibly stable, an excellent candidate for long-term storage, and has minimal to no effects on its performance. On the other hand, this foam can be compromised by many other factors, which may include contamination, extremes of temperature, solution, and system failure. During the testing processes of the foam, nine different attributes of it were tested, and they were tested following various international standards. Firefighting foams are the ones that have a high possibility of failing the tests for a great number of reasons. Understanding how this foam can fail and the way it deteriorates and degrades will not only help you save lives but also protect yourself during the entire process. Here are a couple of reasons why these foams are banned.
The feature of dilution that foam possesses is one of the primary reasons why it is prohibited and why it often does not pass the testing stages. For instance, if the tank that contains the foam does not have enough insulation, water may seep in. This has the potential to dilute the foam concentrate, which will ultimately result in the foam’s qualities being altered. On the other hand, the use of foam that has been diluted might impair the effectiveness of the foam in fighting the fire. Yet, even in the systems that were specifically created for this topic, there were still difficulties that led to the prohibition of this equipment. These blunders were prevented by the firefighting companies by employing complete systems for foam storage.
Another inconvenience would appear in the moments when two or more firefighting foams started to mix, or even different brands of the foam. NFPA 11:2021 suggests that the different types of foam should not be mixed in storage. The reason for this is the consistency and chemical composition of these foams. Every manufacturer has their own formulation and tends to mix some chemicals that trigger the reaction, which, when mixed, can significantly alter the effectiveness of the foam. In addition, the reaction among the different chemicals can even cause contamination of the ground and pose a health risk to humans. Because of the synthetic chemicals that are included in this foam, the firefighter foam cancer lawsuit is an occurrence on behalf of firefighters. Specifically, firefighters who were in touch with this matter reported that they have developed a whole variety of different cancers in their bodies, and because of that, they are making the claims.
In addition to the variables that were discussed before, the temperature control and the temperature at which the foam is kept both have a significant role in the reasons why this foam was prohibited. According to the temperature of certain particular formulations, the producers of the foam offer guidelines and suggestions for the storage of the foam. If you do not follow the instructions, this may have major repercussions for the efficiency of the foam, and it will also have an influence on the entire lifetime of the substance. In most cases, the majority won’t be able to preserve the foamy property, which will lead to significant changes in the foam’s characteristics.
Extreme temperatures, as well as an excess of heat, are both capable of causing significant problems for firefighting foams. In the same way that combining various forms of foam will result in distinct chemical reactions, heat may cause the constituents of the foam to break apart and separate, leaving the foam completely devoid of any effects. This can have the same effect as mixing different types of foam. For example, if the foam breaks down or separates, it will lose a lot of its effectiveness and performance. This means that it won’t work as well in high-stakes emergencies.
Not to forget to mention the least known aspect of foam’s ineffectiveness is improper sampling. The samples taken from the firefighting foam tanks can widely vary depending on where they are taken. The results of the tests can be very different depending on whether the sample is taken from the top or the bottom of the tank. In this case, it is typically recommended that multiple individual samples be taken. To this end, if just a single sample is taken, the entire tank needs to be circulated so that a unified sample can be taken. Because of the inability to take a trustworthy sample, there were delays and failures during the testing phases, which ultimately led to the negative outcome of this matter.
As we’ve already said, firefighting foams are made of chemicals that are made in a lab. Together, these chemicals make up a very unique mixture. PFAS is the abbreviation for the per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, which are a group of over 4,700 chemical substances. These are the substances that have the potential to raise both health and environmental concerns, as they tend to be accumulated in the body and, over time, can be very toxic. PFAS has another name, “Forever Chemicals,” because of their ability not to decompose and degrade in the natural environment. Firefighting foams have consisted of PFAS concentrates, which are typically manufactured industrially. Every concentrate contains impurities and some other substances that can only add to the overall consistency of the foam and have even more active substances that cause health and environmental hazards.
For years, firefighting foams were used as one of the tools for flame extinguishing and as an effective way of preventing flames from killing more people and causing irreparable damage. However, over the years, it has been proven that the effectiveness of this foam may depend on various factors, and that, due to the properties it contains, it can result in serious health and environmental hazards.