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Persistent Pollutants

EU agency to propose restrictions on PFAS in firefighting foams

by Cheryl Hogue
October 9, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 39

Photo shows a firefirefighter in gear holding a hose spewing foam.
Credit: Shutterstock

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) plans to propose restrictions on the use of toxic and persistent per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams. Used to douse fires on oily fuels, these foams are sources of soil and drinking-water contamination in the European Union, ECHA says. One of these PFAS compounds long used in these foams, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is being phased out under an international treaty, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. This is likely to lead to the use of other PFAS as substitutes in firefighting foams if there are no restrictions on them, ECHA says. Little information is available on these compounds’ toxicity, chemical properties, or uses, the agency adds. A recent study done for ECHA and the European Commission—the EU’s executive branch—concluded that fluorine-free firefighting foams are available and that many sectors are using them successfully. In a related development, Germany says it intends to propose restricting the sale and use of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A and structurally similar bisphenols in the EU.


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