Multi-Taxa Ecotoxicity of Novel PFAS-Free Foam versus New Generation Short-Chain-PFAS AFFF Products: Aquatic and Terrestrial Species

Jamie Suski | EA Engineering Science and Technology, Inc. PBC



The objectives of this project focus on quantifying the potential ecotoxicity of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS)-free surfactant foam formulations. There is also an interest in comparative product toxicity with the new generation of short-chain-PFAS aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). The main objectives of this project are to:

  • conduct multi-taxa ecotoxicity studies with PFAS-free surfactant foams using acute and chronic exposure durations, 
  • conduct multi-taxa ecotoxicity studies with new generation short-chain-PFAS AFFF using acute and chronic exposure durations,
  • determine biodegradation potential of both PFAS-free foams and short-chain-PFAS AFFF to provide insight on the environmental persistence of the products, and
  • synthesize data to rank products based on ecotoxicity and persistence.

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Technical Approach

The project team plans to determine the ecotoxicity of three PFAS-free foam products and two short-chain-PFAS AFFF using multiple taxa including aquatic and terrestrial receptors. Acute and chronic toxicity tests will be conducted on algae (Green Algae), an aquatic invertebrate (Chironomid), freshwater fish (Fathead Minnow), an avian species (Bobwhite Quail), and reptiles (Brown Anole) for all five products. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development guideline testing will be followed for all taxa with the exception of reptiles as a guideline is not available. 

To provide preliminary information on environmental concerns of persistence, biodegradation studies will be conducted on product formulations. Data will be analyzed using classic parametric statistics (e.g., Analysis of Variance) to identify no- and low- observable adverse effect level (no-observable effect level, lowest observable effect level, respectively) and exposure-response curves will be modeled using the benchmark dose software that allows for more refined identification of effect-levels. Data will be synthesized into a clear ranking of products based on potential hazard and environmental concerns.

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Given the high-profile nature of the legacy contaminants resulting from wide-spread use of AFFF, it is a necessary exercise to characterize environmental concerns on the replacement products for fire suppression needs. This project aims to provide a foundation for understanding the environmental and ecological concerns associated with PFAS-free surfactant foams and the new generation short-chain-PFAS AFFF currently in use. The expected outcomes of this research are to provide product ranking from least to highest concern based on data generated from toxicity and biodegradation testing. Furthermore, if products result in high toxicity, the project team will aim to identify the constituents that are potentially causing the toxicity allowing for re-formulation or re-evaluation of new generation firefighting foams.

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Jamie Suski

EA Engineering, Science, and Technology, Inc.

Phone: 410-584-7000

Program Manager

Environmental Restoration