The California legislature is sending a bill (SB 1044) to Governor Gavin Newsom that would significantly affect the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (“PFAS”) chemicals in firefighting foam.
Specifically, the bill prohibits the manufacture, sale and use of class B firefighting foam containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals. Class B foams are used to suppress fires generated by flammable liquids (e.g., petroleum based products and fuels, paints, solvents, propane gas, etc.). Use of the foam in training classes is also banned, and anyone who sells firefighter personal protective equipment must disclose in writing if the gear contains PFAS chemicals.
If signed, the prohibition would take effect January 1, 2022. However, facilities with foam fire suppression and certain containment systems are exempt until 2024. Oil refineries and terminal operators may also apply for a waiver to extend the exemption beyond January 1, 2028. Finally, the prohibition does not apply to any manufacture, sale, distribution, or use of class B firefighting foam for which the inclusion of PFAS chemicals is required by federal law.
The bill is meant to prevent PFAS contamination from spreading, and to protect firefighters from exposure to such dangerous chemicals. Many firefighters support the bill, as it will reduce a leading cause of certain cancers, decreased vaccine response in children, changes in liver enzymes, amongst other harmful health effects. However, other stakeholders are worried the prohibition will hamper a key factor in fighting chemical fires due the unique character of such fires.
Violators of the bill would be subject to civil penalties of up to $5,000 for a first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. Governor Newsom has until the end of September to act on the bill.