Read the full article from Melanie Benesh (EWG)
“The Federal Aviation Administration has a duty to let airports use firefighting foams that don’t contain the toxic ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS, but instead it wants to blow past a looming October 4 deadline for letting them make the switch – despite having had three years to act.
Even though Congress set the deadline in 2018 as part of that year’s FAA Reauthorization Act, the agency is now signaling it needs more time. This means airports will continue to be forced to use a special kind of PFAS-contaminated firefighting foam known as aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, typically used on high-heat fuel fires.
Switching to PFAS-free firefighting foams at airports would help protect firefighters, who have higher levels of PFAS in their blood than the average American, according to studies. PFAS-based firefighting foams have been widely used by the military, fire training centers and airports for five decades.
PFAS are known as forever chemicals because once released into the environment, they never break down. They also build up in our bodies, where they can stay for decades. PFAS can increase the risk of cancer and can cause reproductive and developmental harms, and harm to the immune system.
But dropping airports’ requirement to use AFFF requires the FAA to pursue a formal rulemaking.
In an August 24 letter to the FAA Research, Engineering, and Development Advisory Committee, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said his agency will ‘likely need additional time’ for the change required by Congress. He said the FAA would support an extension of the October 4 deadline.
That cutoff is just days away, but the agency has not yet released any documents about the rulemaking for public comment. Now, instead of writing new rules allowing airports to use non-PFAS foams, the FAA is conducting duplicative and unnecessary tests of these foams.
Viable foam alternatives have been on the market for almost 20 years. Nearly 100 fluorine-free foams have been identified by the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, and now there is an eco-label to certify PFAS-free foams. PFAS-free foams are already being used successfully by airports, militaries, and oil and chemical companies around the world.
Many of these foams meet the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, Level B standards used by airports across the globe. All 27 major Australian airports have transitioned to fluorine-free foams, as have many major international airports, including London Heathrow and Gatwick, Paris-Charles De Gaulle and Dubai.
The FAA should move quickly to authorize airports to use the PFAS-free foams that already meet the ICAO standards.
Instead, it has focused inappropriately on testing firefighting foams to see whether they meet U.S. military specifications. That focus is misguided because airport fires are not the same as fires that occur on military bases, aircraft carriers, ships and submarines. The ICAO standards are designed for airport fires, and foams that meet those rigorous standards have been proven to be effective and are readily available.”…