ALBANY, Georgia, March 26 -- The U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany issued the following news:
The aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, used in Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany Fire & Emergency Services' trucks, until recently, had an unknown amount of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. This presented a possible health risk.
"It can get into drinking water and be consumed by the population, in and out of the fence line," Brian Wallace, head, Environmental Branch, Installation and Environmental Division, MCLB Albany, said.
The fire trucks now have an AFFF containing less than 3% of the product.
"We moved forward with replacing it," Wallace said. "Headquarters Marine Corps contracted out a company (to drain out the old product and put in a new one)."
The entire class of approximately 600 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are commonly known as PFAS. A variety of industries use PFAS because they help reduce friction, including the aerospace, automotive, building and construction and electronics industries.
The Department of Defense said it began using AFFF containing perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and in some formulations perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, in the 1970s. Both are two chemicals in the larger PFAS class.
AFFF is mission-critical because it quickly extinguishes petroleum-based fires.
"In a car fire, it supresses a fire a lot quicker than water," Steve Waltermon, deputy chief, MCLB Albany Fire & Emergency Services, said. "It also works well with dumpster and structure fires."
PFOS, PFOA and other PFAS, due to the potential harm on human health, are the subject of increasing regulations worldwide.
"It's really good stuff, but it is a carcinogenic," Daniel Tompkins, captain, MCLB Albany Fire & Emergency Services, said. "The (former product was in use) since 1999 or 2000. It is the best thing since sliced bread, but we didn't know about the carcinogenic."
It takes the heat out of a fire by essentially coating it.
"It doesn't allow oxygen to get into it," Wallace said. "It was originally designed for aircraft and later used by NASCAR. It is not immediately lethal to humans, but its long-term impacts are not fully known."
"It has been used by every fire department in America. Once you spray it on a fire, there is no way to truly clean it up. When it rains it flows with the water, so it goes into lakes, rivers and aquifers. It even gets into the drinking water."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a lifetime health advisory in 2016 for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion. One ppt is equivalent to one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.