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05/06/2021

AFFF Bill Draws No Opposition, Passes Unanimously

For the past two years, OCTC has supported the passage of a piece of legislation aimed at codifying the best practices regarding the use of firefighting foams containing intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as aqueous film forming foams (AFFF). This General Assembly, the bill is identified as House Bill 158. This week, the bill was reported unanimously out of House Commerce and Labor Committee. For the second year in a row, the bill has drawn no opposition and has achieved unanimous, bipartisan support every step of the way.

Class B firefighting foams serve a vital role in controlling combustible and  flammable liquid fuel fires commonly found at military bases, airports, storage tanks, petroleum/chemical operations, rail transportation and power generating facilities. The ability of foam to rapidly extinguish flammable liquid fires has undoubtedly saved many lives, reduced property loss, and helped minimize the global pollution that can result from the uncontrolled burning of flammable liquids.

While “fluorine-free foams” exist, they do not meet the performance requirements of military specification, are not fully compatible with each other, require substantially more product in use and testing (up to 60% more), and they often require significant equipment changes. Completely eliminating the use of AFFF foams that contain PFAS chemistries is not desirable because these are the most effective agents currently available to fight flammable liquid fires. The chemistries within AFFF foams provide fuel repellency and heat stability, allow for rapid extinguishment, burnback resistance, and protection against vapor release, which helps to prevent re-ignition.

The chemical technology industry recognizes that it has a responsibility to reduce, to the greatest extent possible, the environmental and health impacts associated with its products. Fortunately, there are alternative fluids and methods currently available that mimic the properties of AFFF foams but do not possess the practical application abilities. This makes it possible in many cases to eliminate the use of AFFF foams for training and testing. Thus, the industry has improved both the environmental footprint of PFAS-based foams and practices employed to minimize exposure and discharges.

HB 158 will establish a statewide uniform requirement that would ban the use of firefighting foams containing intentionally added PFAS chemistries for training and testing purposes but will allow for their continued sale and use against real world fires. As a result, Ohio firefighters will continue to have access to the most effective firefighting foams available to protect life and property.

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