Given increasing environmental and health concerns about the widespread use of fluorinated aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) as a firefighting agent, the purpose of this research effort is to improve the ability of the Department of Defense (DoD) to make informed, efficient choices on AFFF alternatives by strengthening and building consistency in the approaches used to identify, compare, and adopt alternatives. This can serve as a model for addressing future chemical and material substitution challenges across DoD. The goals are twofold: to accelerate the identification and adoption of alternatives that are safer than AFFF products that contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds, while maintaining critical performance characteristics, and to minimize regrettable substitutions when switching away from substances/materials of concern. Research objectives include: (1) understanding gaps in comprehensive alternatives assessments (AA) for AFFF by reviewing existing assessments; (2) developing generalizable approaches and guidance for defining a “safer” nonfluorinated AFFF alternative as well as determining “adequate” and “fit for purpose” performance for such alternatives, that can strengthen future alternatives assessments; and (3) understanding lessons learned from existing efforts to accelerate development and adoption of safer alternatives to AFFF, including barriers and enabling factors.
This project will evaluate existing assessments of AFFF alternatives, best practices in performance evaluation in alternatives assessment, and the current DoD and non-DoD efforts to evaluate and adopt PFAS-free firefighting foams, as well as barriers to and opportunities for adoption. The objective of this analysis is to support the transition to safer, effective AFFF alternatives. This research will be used to develop guidance and strategies that strengthen alternatives assessment practice through the following activities: (1) undertaking a critical review of existing assessments of alternatives to PFAS use in AFFF; (2) developing guidance to address fit for purpose performance in alternatives assessment; (3) examining the strengths and weaknesses of existing efforts as well as challenges to accelerate development and adoption of alternatives to PFAS in AFFF.
The project aims to improve the ability of DoD and others to make efficient, informed decisions regarding safer, high performing alternatives to PFAS use in AFFF, while avoiding regrettable substitutions. An important goal of this project is to strengthen and expand the use of alternatives assessment methods – particularly performance evaluation approaches - for additional chemicals and applications of concern. This will build sustainable capacity and infrastructure for the field of alternatives assessment that can better support government and industry in making informed chemical and material alternatives selection choices. Improved methodologies for assessing alternatives and addressing barriers to commercialization and adoption will both enhance the DoD’s capacity to identify safer and effective options and accelerate their adoption and scale, reducing current and future liabilities.