New PFAS firefighting foam regulations pass Mich. House

If the bills are signed into law, firefighters would receive additional training for proper use and handling of firefighting foams with PFAS chemicals and decontamination procedures


By Lauren Gibbons
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

WALKER, Mich. — Firefighters would receive more training for appropriate use and safe handling of firefighting foam containing PFAS under legislation passed in the Michigan House Thursday.

The three-bill package, House Bills 4389, 4390 and 4391, passed with wide majorities on the floor. They now head to the Senate for further review, and would need to be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.

The Class B version of AFFF was made for decades with PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS that were discontinued for use in the U.S. in 2015 after years of escalating health concerns. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
The Class B version of AFFF was made for decades with PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS that were discontinued for use in the U.S. in 2015 after years of escalating health concerns. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, is most commonly used to prevent fires involving petroleum products, such as an airplane crash or a tanker fire, from spreading. The Class B version of AFFF was made for decades with PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS that were discontinued for use in the U.S. in 2015 after years of escalating health concerns.

Under the bills, firefighters would get additional training for proper use and handling of firefighting foams with PFAS chemicals, as well as decontamination procedures.

If a fire department uses firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals, officials would have to file a report with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on why it was used, the location of its use and how much was used.

Another bill in the package would require the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to come up with new rules about when the foam should be used.

Bill sponsor Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, is a former firefighter. Now that the dangers associated with PFAS exposure are more well known, he said departments need to be proactive about protecting first responders who might come into contact with it.

“We went for years with the understanding that it wasn’t a great risk to the environment and to people, and now that we know, it’s important to get the word out to the fire service to use it conservatively if we need to use it,” he said.

Last month, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy moved ahead with a contract to gather and dispose of 37,000 gallons of Class B AFFF containing PFAS from more than 300 fire departments across the state.

At the federal level, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is supporting legislation that would direct federal agencies to develop best practices, training, and educational programs to reduce, limit and prevent exposure to PFAS.

Efforts would include providing information for federal, state, and local firefighters on training and best practices to prevent and reduce exposure to PFAS from firefighting foams and protective gear, as well as resources that identify alternatives for firefighting tools and equipment that do not contain PFAS.

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©2019 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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