New Regulations on PFOA and PFOS in AFFF Fire Extinguishers: Guidance from the Irish EPA
Fire safety is a crucial aspect of protecting lives and property, and the use of effective fire extinguishing agents is essential in managing fire incidents. However, certain firefighting foams have come under scrutiny due to the presence of harmful substances such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Recognising the potential risks associated with these chemicals, regulatory bodies like the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have taken steps to address the use of PFOA and PFOS in AFFF fire extinguishers. In this blog, we will explore the new regulations in place and the guidance provided by the Irish EPA.
The Hazards of PFOA and PFOS:
PFOA and PFOS belong to a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals have been widely used in various industrial and commercial applications, including firefighting foams, due to their excellent fire suppression capabilities and chemical stability. However, their persistence in the environment and potential health hazards have raised concerns.
Studies have linked PFOA and PFOS to adverse effects on human health, including liver damage, developmental issues, and an increased risk of certain cancers. Additionally, these chemicals have been found to bioaccumulate in organisms, leading to potential ecological impacts.
The Irish EPA’s Approach:
In response to these concerns, the Irish EPA has issued new regulations to restrict the use of PFOA and PFOS in AFFF fire extinguishers. The guidance provided aims to protect human health and the environment while ensuring an effective response to fire incidents.
- Prohibition on Manufacturing and Importation:
Under the new regulations, the manufacturing and importation of AFFF fire extinguishers containing PFOA and PFOS are prohibited in Ireland. This restriction aims to prevent the introduction of new products containing these harmful substances into the market.
- Phase-out Period:
The Irish EPA has outlined a phase-out period for existing AFFF fire extinguishers containing PFOA and PFOS. During this period, users are encouraged to transition to alternative firefighting foams that do not contain these substances. The Irish EPA has provided a list of approved alternatives to assist users in making informed choices.
- Proper Disposal:
To prevent environmental contamination, the Irish EPA emphasises the proper disposal of AFFF fire extinguishers containing PFOA and PFOS. These extinguishers should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of in accordance with relevant waste management regulations. Proper disposal helps minimise the release of these chemicals into the environment.
- Monitoring and Reporting:
The Irish EPA expects manufacturers and importers of AFFF fire extinguishers to monitor and report the quantities of PFOA and PFOS contained in their products. This information helps the EPA assess the extent of their usage and identify trends over time, aiding in the development of appropriate policies and regulations.
If your business has more than 50 litres of foam containing PFOA or PFOS at the same location, you are required to report this to the EPA on the first of July every year, starting 2023.
All business owners have a responsibility to prove that their fire extinguishers do not contain PFOA or PFOS. If you cannot prove the content of the fire extinguishers in your business is free from PFOA or PFOS, well then you should replace the fire extinguishers with water fire extinguishers where there are no class B risks.
The new regulations implemented by the Irish EPA regarding the use of PFOA and PFOS in AFFF fire extinguishers highlight the commitment to safeguarding human health and the environment. By prohibiting the manufacturing and importation of such extinguishers and promoting the phase-out of existing ones, the EPA is taking significant steps to reduce the potential risks associated with these harmful substances. The emphasis on proper disposal and monitoring further demonstrates the agency’s dedication to effective regulation and sustainable fire safety practices.
Moving forward, it is essential for stakeholders, including manufacturers, importers, fire safety professionals, and end-users, to adhere to these regulations and work towards safer alternatives in fire suppression. By prioritising human health, environmental protection, and innovation