Read the full article by Dani Birzer and Holly Bock (Arizona’s Family)

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Arizona fire stations are getting state-funded help in 2023 to eliminate firefighting foam that’s been linked to cancer.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) will start a free ‘take-back and replace’ program across the state to remove, dispose of, and replace the foam made of poly-fluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

PFAS has been nicknamed ‘forever chemicals’ since they stay around for a long time and have been proven to cause severe health effects.

This effort comes on the heels of a $4 million grant split between Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and state fire departments to research how best to reduce occupational-related cancer. Earlier this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified firefighter exposure as cancer-causing. Studies have shown firefighters can be in contact with PFAS through burning household items, contamination from PPE, firefighting foam, and more. Further research conducted by The University of Arizona Health Sciences has indicated that exposure to these materials can cause DNA alterations, which could easily lead to cancer.

‘Protecting Arizonans and Arizona’s precious water resources from per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) impacts is critical,’ said ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera, P.E. ‘In addition to posing risks to firefighters’ health, uncontrolled release of firefighting foam containing PFAS has the potential to create adverse impacts to our communities if it reaches drinking water, groundwater or surface water.’

Laura Malone with the ADEQ says through a recent statewide survey they found rural fire departments use aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), which contains the PFAs. It is mainly used to put out petroleum-based fires. The organization will begin its pilot program, removing and replacing the foam from 24 fire departments in 14 counties across the state. ‘Primarily smaller fire departments who have AFFF foam in their inventory might not be able to have the funds to dispose of it and replace it with a non PFAS related material. So what we thought is we would hire a contractor and do what we call a ‘milk run’ and have that contractor go and collect the PFAS AFFF foam and replace it with the non PFAS and take that material for disposal,’ Malone explained.” …