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Persistent Pollutants

U.S. Congress targets requirements for fluorochemicals in firefighting foams at airports

by Cheryl Hogue
June 3, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 23


The U.S. Congress is considering legislation to lift requirements for airports to use firefighting foams containing fluorochemicals. Substances such as perfluoroalkyls persist in the environment and are increasingly found in drinking water supplies across the U.S., especially near airports, military bases, and other facilities that manufacture or use these compounds. Foams containing fluorochemicals have been used for decades to suppress fires involving hydrocarbon fuels. Now, a bill (H. R. 4) that the House of Representatives passed in late April to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration says FAA “shall not require the use of fluorinated chemicals” in firefighting foams used at airports. This change would take effect by 2020. The bill would instruct FAA to coordinate with EPA, aircraft manufacturers, and airports, and use the National Fire Protection Association’s latest standard for fighting blazes at airports, which allows for fluorine-free foams. The Senate is expected to take up FAA reauthorization legislation in the coming months. It is unclear how much support there is in that body for the provision on fluorochemicals.


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