For fires involving ignitable liquids like gasoline, heptane, or isopropyl alcohol, water typically isn’t an effective form of suppression. Instead, Class B firefighting foams are a much more viable option. These foams form a film or sheet of bubbles on the surface of the ignitable liquid so that fuel vapors and oxygen can’t mix and combust into flames.
Currently, there are two main types of Class B firefighting foams on the market: fluorine-free foam and aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). While these foams work to accomplish a similar goal, they’re quite different in their properties and functionality. We’ll discuss their distinguishing features below.
So what’s the difference between fluorine-free foam and AFFF? Let’s start with some definitions.
However, in recent years, studies have shown that the same properties that make AFFF so great at extinguishing fires also make them persistent in and harmful to the environment. This has led to extremely adverse health effects not only in the lands and waters that surround us, but also to human lives. For these reasons, many states have started to implement strict regulations on the use of AFFF. Some of them have even banned it altogether — making the go-to replacement option (you guessed it!) fluorine-free foam.
Now, let’s run through some of the unique characteristics and capabilities of fluorine-free foam, covering categories like composition, film formation, environmental effects, and legislative regulations.
On the flipside, AFFF’s characteristics and capabilities are a bit different. Let’s take a look at its composition, film formation and performance, environmental and health effects, and legislative regulations.
So between fluorine-free foam and AFFF, which one should your facility use for fire suppression? Well, fluorine-free foam requires more volume and special equipment to make it effective, but doesn’t pose any risk to the environment. On the other hand, AFFF is an incredibly effective extinguishing agent, but poses extreme risks to the environment and those who live within it.
Our answer? With all of the research done to show the harmful effects of AFFF and PFAS, it’s probably best to consider an AFFF alternative like fluorine-free foam. AFFF works well, can be stored safely, and can be disposed of cautiously to minimize impacts, but it shouldn’t be the predominant choice moving forward. Also, with many of the current and proposed regulations, it’s probable that states won’t even allow it in coming years. Fluorine-free foam can provide a safe, effective alternative — and it’s likely that more alternative options will become available in the future as well.
We’re continuing to learn more about the dangers AFFF can bring to our communities. If you’re interested in making the transition from AFFF to fluorine-free foam, Vanguard Fire & Security Systems can help. We’ll listen to your facility’s unique needs, then propose an alternative solution that will work just as effectively to keep your property, products, and people safe. For more information, contact our team online.