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QLD Firefighting Foam Ban Blindsides Industry

Posted on : Friday, 8 July 2016

Today the Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef, the Honourable Steven Miles has announced that Queensland will ban the use of all fire fighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA.


This policy will "require that any existing stocks of foams containing PFOS and PFOA are withdrawn from service at commercial and industrial premises, and similar products phased out and replaced, as soon as practicable with more sustainable alternatives."


As the peak national body for the fire protection industry, Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) has major concerns both with the lack of consultation and process for implementation of this policy.


We have supported improvements around the selection and use of firefighting foams in Australia and called for the immediate banning of foams containing PFOS.  FPA Australia has also urged manufacturers to reduce and eliminate the production of long chain fluorinated foams containing PFOA in accordance with the US EPA PFOA Stewardship Program. However, significant issues exist surrounding the rollout of the ban that has been announced today.


FPA Australia is deeply concerned by the Queensland Government view that potential environmental impacts alone should determine foam selection and use.  In addition, the Association has real concerns about the lack of transitional mechanisms for existing users of now banned foams to move to the fluorine free alternatives.


The Association believes that these legitimate issues have not been considered and, in the rush to take action on environmental concerns, the government has blindsided both producers and end users of these products in Australia. The Queensland Government has not engaged in any broad industry consultation to understand and balance the factors required to develop an informed policy position.


The Association has consistently advocated that all firefighting foams will have an environmental effect and that in addition to environmental impact; the selection and use of fire fighting foams should not discount the critically important factors of:


(a)         Firefighting performance

(b)         Life safety

(c)         Physical properties and suitability for use on known hazards

(d)         Compatibility with system design and approvals


Matthew Wright, Chief Technical Officer / Deputy CEO of FPA Australia said the ban was a simplistic response to a complex issue and potentially dangerous.


"Environmental impacts must be a key consideration in the selection and use of firefighting foams, but this policy naively ignores the new generation of  short chain ≤C6 fluorinated foams which are non-toxic and non bioaccumulative and simply draws an unrealistic line between fluorine free and fluorinated foams as the deciding factor for selection," he said.


"Manufacturers of fluorine free and new generation of short chain ≤C6 fluorinated foam are members of our Association and have been committed to developing new foam solutions to transition away from traditional long chain fluorinated foams containing PFOS and PFOA for the express reason of improving environmental performance, but without compromising firefighting effectiveness and life safety." 


"If a foam is not effective for the hazard, the environmental impact will be magnified by the persistence and potential escalation of the fire event itself, damaging smoke, and potentially carcinogenic products and runoff regardless of whether the foam is fluorine free or not." 


It is clear that the use of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP's) as identified by the UN Stockholm Convention are damaging to our environment and therefore their use should be restricted.  FPA Australia contends that such restrictions must be risk based and holistically consider all risk factors. 


FPA Australia has seen no evidence that the Queensland Government has appropriately considered such factors holistically including firefighting performance, life safety, suitability for hazards, compatibility with existing systems and the financial impact of change for end users together with environmental risk.  We have seen no Net Environmental Benefit Analysis supporting this position.


The Association is now calling on the Queensland government to suspend implementation of this policy and work with industry to develop appropriate and cost effective transitional arrangements for suppliers and end users as we have suggested from the outset.


In addition, we call on all governments considering these issues to participate in transparent and collaborative engagement with industry to ensure that all effective, compatible and environmentally sensitive foams available in the marketplace including fluorine free and new generation short chain ≤C6 fluorinated foams, can be used to better protect life, property and the environment. 


To read the Queensland Government media release click here

To read the FPA Australia Information Bulletin click here


Media Enquiries: Joseph Keller - 0419 173 485 

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