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CONVERSION FROM FLUORINATED TO FLUORINE-FREE FOAM CONCENTRATES

Time and again we receive questions from customers regarding the current and future regulations within the EU on the use of fluorinated foam concentrates. There seems to be a great uncertainty on this subject in both mobile and stationary fire protection. We hope that the following information will help you in your choice of foam concentrate.


The term "fluorine" in foam concentrate refers to so-called per- and polyfluorinated alkyl compounds (PFAS). The fluorine compounds contained in foam concentrates are used to improve foaming, reduce the surface tension of the water (relevant for class A fires), allow the foam to spread quickly on surfaces (relevant for liquid fires), create a barrier layer that prevents the foam from being contaminated with flammable liquids (also relevant for liquid fires) and stabilize the foam blanket.


PFAS are persistent and partially toxic. If PFAS enter the soil or water (e.g. via extinguishing foam), they can later be ingested by humans via food and drinking water. In the body PFAS accumulate in organs and can cause damage to health. For this reason the EU is increasingly restricting the use of PFAS (not only in extinguishing foam, but also in many everyday products).

The procurement of particularly problematic PFOS-containing foam concentrates (PFOS = perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) has been severely restricted throughout the EU since the end of 2006 by means of very strict critical values. Any remaining stocks affected had to be used up or disposed of properly by mid-2011. Since mid-2020 foam concentrates containing PFOA (PFOA = perfluorooctanoic acid) have also been strictly regulated. Non-compliant residual foam concentrates may only be used until July 4, 2025 – provided that the extinguishing agent can be completely collected. De facto, their use is therefore no longer permitted in the vast majority of firefighting operations. Since mid-2023 foam concentrates containing PFHxS (PFHxS = perfluorohexane sulfonic acid) have also been subject to strict regulations.


In 2024 the EU is planning further restrictions on the use of PFAS-containing foam concentrates and will set strict limits for all AFFF foam concentrates. The planned critical value is 1 mg for the sum of all PFAS in 1 kg of foam concentrate. The transitional periods during which fluorine-containing foam concentrates may still be used outside this value are to be rather short: The EU is planning a transition period of 5 years for most industrial sectors and as little as 1 ½ years for public fire departments. Therefore it does not make sense replenish foam concentrate stocks with the "old" foam concentrates now, because a large proportion of them will have to be disposed of later at great expense. Tacit use will become illegal short term and fire department commanders and operators of fixed firefighting systems will be liable for environmental damage caused by non-compliant extinguishing foam. As further EU regulations are expected in the coming years, the new PFAS critical value should not be exhausted when purchasing new foam concentrates.


Schmitz One Seven GmbH recommends the procurement of new fluorine-free foam concentrate for all fire classes in the course of the expected EU decisions and for the reasons mentioned above. A foam concentrate is considered "fluorine-free" if the amount of PFAS is less than 0.025 mg per kg of foam concentrate. Research and development has nowadays produced fluorine-free foam concentrates which are hardly or not at all inferior to those containing fluorine in terms of their physical properties (e.g. viscosity) and the extinguishing power of the foam. Even B-AR foam concentrates are available as fluorine-free foam concentrates with excellent properties. In addition to the fluorine problem there are also other aspects of environmental and health protection to which newly developed foam concentrates have been significantly optimized.


We are happy to answer your questions and provide specific advice.



The information in this article has been prepared to the best of our knowledge and belief but does not constitute legally binding information. Errors or a different interpretation of regulations cannot be ruled out. Neither Schmitz One Seven GmbH nor the author assume any responsibility or liability for errors or omissions in this article.

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