Sunrise of PFAS Replacements: A Perspective on Fluorine-Free Foams
By Mohamed Ateia, Jean Van Buren, William Barrett, Todd Martin, and Gerard G. Back
ACS Sustain. Chem. Eng.
May 15, 2023
One type of firefighting foam, referred to as aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), is known to contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The concerns raised with PFAS, and their potential environmental and health impacts, have led to a surge in research on fluorine-free alternatives both in the United States and globally. Particularly, in January 2023, a new military specification (MIL-PRF-32725) for fluorine-free foam was released in accordance with Congressional requirements for the U.S. Department of Defense. This paper provides a critical analysis of the present state of the various fluorine-free options that have been developed to date. A nuanced perspective of the challenges and opportunities of more sustainable replacements is explored by examining the performance, cost, and regulatory considerations associated with these fluorine-free alternatives. Ultimately, this evaluation shows that the transition to fluorine-free replacements is likely to be complex and multifaceted, requiring careful consideration of the trade-offs involved. Yet, the ongoing work will provide valuable insights for future research on alternatives to AFFF and enhancing the safety and sustainability of fire suppression systems.