PFAS changes how emergency crews fight fires


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The dangers of PFAS are creating an environmental crisis and now it’s changing the way firefighters do their jobs.

You’ve been hearing about them a lot lately: PFAS. They’re a dangerous chemical that can cause a host of health problems.

Now, PFAS are changing how emergency crews respond to fires.

“We’re waiting on further guidance from the F.A.A. on replacements for our chemical foam we use to distinguish fire, which contains PFAS,” said Eric Patrick, the director of operations and public safety at the Capital Region Airport Authority.

Patrick says they try to limit using PFAS foam as much as possible when putting out fires.

“During training we never use foam, even before we knew PFAS was an issue because the simulators are propane fed, so the water doesn’t even put those out, they’re activated by a switch,” said Patrick.

In Michigan, there are two types of foam that firefighters use. The first one only works on things like paper and wood. The second, which has PFAS, puts out gas and fuel fires.

Patrick says for practice exercises like the one held today, they only use water.

Once a year, firefighters at the airport run through different scenarios, making sure they are prepared for anything.

“It’s important so we know what we’re doing when the real emergencies happen,” said Patrick.

In regards to the PFAS crisis, Patrick thinks our state is taking steps in the right direction.

“The state of Michigan was one of the first states to kind of take the charge on that and to do research on the PFAS exposure and the environmental impact, so I think we’re probably ahead of most states,” said Patrick.

6 News also reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration to see where they’re at in finding an alternative for the foam.

They say some airports in Europe use one that doesn’t contain PFAS and they’re seeing if that could be an option.

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