Two recent announcements increase the pressure on legacy PFAS contamination and any continued use of PFOS-type AFFF foam concentrates or regrettable substitutions using PFHxS.
On 15 June, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a press release outlining interim updated drinking water health advisories for PFOS and PFOA of 0.02 ppt (1 ppt = 1 ng/litre) and 0.004 ppt, respectively, replacing the 2016 values, which were both set at 70 ppt (Federal Register 87(118) 21 June 2022). These concentrations are below current levels of detection, effectively making any detectable PFOS or PFOA in drinking water unacceptable. These new health advisories have serious ramifications for court cases involving legacy or ongoing contamination of drinking water supplies as a result of using or disposing of firefighting foams.
On 17 June, the UN Stockholm Convention of the Parties (COP10), meeting in Geneva, with some 152 countries as signatories and 185 as parties to the Convention with the notable exception of the United States, decided to list PFHxS and related compounds under Annex A of the Convention with the aim of eliminating its production and use worldwide. Exposure has been linked to disorders of the thyroid, development and liver metabolism. PFHxS compounds have both been used intentionally in firefighting foam, as well as occurring as a by-product or impurity of PFOS manufactured by Simons electrochemical fluorination (ECF) at 5–10% levels. The presence of PFOS and PFHxS in legacy AFFF formulations has led to contamination of firefighters with the detection of raised blood levels for both compounds, often greatly exceeding the German Human Biomonitoring Commission HBM-II trigger values, indicating that immediate remediative intervention is required.
The Melbourne study aimed at reducing firefighter blood levels of PFOS and PFHxS through blood or plasma donation has been covered in previous issues of International Fire Fighter, Gulf Fire, Asia-Pacific Fire, UK Fire and International Fire Protection.
Thanks to Dr Roger A. Klein for submitting this news item.