Use of Class B Firefighting Foam
Authority: General Business Law § 391-u and General Municipal Law § 204-g
Fluorinated Class B foam (foam containing PFAS chemicals), including Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), has been determined to pose both environmental and public health risks.
Use of foams containing PFAS chemicals is PROHIBITED during TRAINING. *
As of March 22, 2022, the manufacture, sale, distribution for sale or distribution for use of firefighting foams containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals is prohibited, unless such sale or distribution is for use required by Federal law or regulation, which includes fire protection at military and civil aviation facilities.
Foam manufacturers are required to recall, collect, and safely dispose of Class B foams containing PFAS and reimburse retailers or other purchasers for the product. Contact your foam vendor or manufacturer for information regarding how they are complying with this requirement. Fluorinated foam concentrates currently in inventory should be replaced with Fluorine Free Foam (FFF) concentrates now available.
While use during an emergency is not currently prohibited by NYS law: any decision to use fluorinated foam at an incident should consider the risk to public health and environmental harm that may result versus the operational benefit or need for that use. Fire departments may be responsible for associated clean-up costs and should take measures to control and limit the spread of any foam applied, including notification of use to the DEC Spill Hotline (1-800-457-7362).
In general, use of any Class B foams should be primarily for ignitable liquid spills and fires. OFPC does not recommend use of Class B foam on Class A or three-dimensional fires such as tire fires and junkyard fires.
Contact OFPC Special Operations Branch for additional information at 518-474-6746 or via [email protected] .
*Note: OFPC does not recommend any Class B foam be used during training, regardless of fluorination, as there are alternatives (such as dish detergent) suitable for training use.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are PFAS chemicals?
- Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances, including but not limited to Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), are a class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated atom. PFAS chemicals have often been used to provide oil and water repellent qualities in industrial processes, commercial products including some Class B firefighting foams and personal protective equipment, and consumer products including outdoor clothing and food packaging.
- Class B Foam is a stable mixture of bubbles of lower density than oil or water, intended for use on a flammable or combustible liquid fire (NFPA 11 3.3.10). Class B Foams include Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) and Alcohol Resistant-Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AR-AFFF) which have traditionally included PFAS chemical components.
- PFAS chemicals have been determined to be highly persistent in the environment. Studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS chemicals in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in animals and humans (https://www.epa.gov/pfas/pfas-explained)
Does General Business Law §391-u (GBL §391-u) prohibit the use of Class B firefighting foams which contain PFAS chemicals, including Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) and Alcohol Resistant AFFF (AR-AFFF)?
- GBL §391-u prohibits a person or State agency from discharging firefighting foams which include PFAS chemicals during training. (NOTE: General Municipal Law §204-g places the same restriction upon local governments.)
- GBL §391-u prohibits the manufacture, sale, distribution for sale or distribution for use of firefighting foams containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals after March 22, 2022, but does not prohibit the use of those foams during an emergency incident.
- While life safety remains the priority, the decision to use foam containing PFAS chemicals to achieve operational objectives other than providing for life safety at an emergency incident should consider the potential risk to public health and environmental harm that may result. Fire departments may be responsible for associated clean-up costs related to the use of foam which contains PFAS chemicals. Appropriate measures should be taken to control and limit the spread of any foam applied and notification should be made to the DEC Spill Hotline (1-800-457-7362).
Does GBL §391-u allow for any exemptions for the prohibitions upon manufacture, sale, or distribution of firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals in New York State?
- GBL §391-u allows OFPC, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Health (DOH), to exempt the manufacture, sale, or distribution of Class B firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals for use in suppressing or preventing an ignitable liquid fire if those agencies determine that an operationally effective and environmentally safe alternative fire and vapor suppression agent is not available.
- OFPC determined, after consultation with DEC and DOH, that an operationally effective and environmentally safe alternative fire and vapor suppression agent is available and therefore will not be issuing an exemption to the manufacture, sale, or distribution for use of Class B foams with PFAS chemicals intentionally added.
- This evaluation included operational testing of Class B Fluorine Free Foam (FFF) concentrates. While FFF must be applied differently than traditional AFFF and AR-AFFF concentrates, it is effective at both fire and vapor suppression and is considered to be free of intentionally added PFAS.
- GBL §391-u expressly exempts use of fluorinated foam concentrates required by Federal law or regulation, which includes use for fire protection at military and civil aviation facilities.
What criteria did OFPC, DEC, and DOH use for testing Class B Fluorine-Free Foam (FFF) concentrates?
- Foam concentrates selected for evaluation for both performance and health and environmental safety testing were compliant with Underwriters Laboratory (UL) Standard 162 for Safety for Foam Equipment and Liquid Concentrates and GreenScreen® Silver Level Certification or better.
- Foam concentrates selected were then subjected to additional laboratory and operational performance testing. Laboratory testing confirmed those foam concentrates could be considered free of intentionally added PFAS chemicals, as required by GBL §391-u. Operational testing was based upon the provisions of UL162 with the addition of use of a polar solvent fuel and inclusion of additional obstructions in the test pan to evaluate the ability of the finished foam to flow around and seal against those obstacles.
What should be done with Class B foams containing PFAS chemicals?
- GBL §391-u requires, as of March 22, 2022, manufacturers that produce, sell, or distribute Class B foam to recall non-compliant product, to include the collection, transport, treatment, storage, and safe disposal and reimburse the purchaser for the product.
- Fire departments and other users of Class B foams containing PFAS chemicals should evaluate current operational foam needs and replace any existing class B firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals with Class B Fluorine Free Foam (FFF) concentrates which meet or exceed UL 162 and GreenScreen® Silver Level Certification.
How does the performance and application of Class B Fluorine Free Foam (FFF) concentrates differ from AFFF or AR-AFFF concentrates traditionally used by the fire service?
- OFPC’s operational performance testing found the FFF concentrates evaluated were effective on both blended gasoline and isopropyl alcohol when tested pursuant to the fire and vapor suppression requirements of UL 162.
- In general, UL 162 compliant FFF concentrates have longer quarter drain times than AFFF concentrates, allowing increased time between re-application for vapor suppression on ignitable liquid spills (and potentially reducing the total amount of foam concentrate required for effective vapor suppression operations compared to AFFF or AR-AFFF).
- In general, FFF foams lack the fuel shedding capabilities of AFFF and AR-AFFF and therefore should be applied gently, using “roll-on” or “bounce off” techniques, while plunging of FFF foam streams into ignitable liquids should be avoided. Support and training regarding FFF application is available from OFPC.
GBL §391-u and personal protective equipment (PPE):
- GBL §391-u requires a manufacturer or other seller of firefighting PPE must provide a written notice to a purchaser of firefighting PPE at the time of sale indicating if that PPE contains PFAS chemicals. This statement must include the reason PFAS chemicals were added to the product.
- Both the seller and purchaser are required to retain this written notice on file for three years from the date of sale.
- Fire departments should prioritize and give preference to PPE which does not contain PFAS chemicals.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control’s Special Operations Branch at 518-474-6746 or via email at [email protected].