SDS for Foam Fire Extinguishers: Are They Safe?
In 2022, firefighters in the US responded to around 1.5 million fires. These fires can be devastating, and having the right equipment, like foam fire extinguishers, can help. However, in recent years, concerns about firefighting foam have skyrocketed.
This is due to PFAS content found in foam fire extinguishers. So, are these essential devices safe? Keep reading to learn more about foam fire extinguishers and safety.
Understanding Foam Fire Extinguishers
Foam fire extinguishers are a type of firefighting equipment designed to tackle Class A and Class B fires. But what exactly makes them different from other types of fire extinguishers?
The versatility of foam fire extinguishers lies in their ability to handle solid combustibles (Class A) and liquid-based fuels (Class B). This makes them an ideal choice for various settings where these fires commonly occur.
However, it’s important to note that not all situations suit using foam fire extinguishers. In places with live electrical equipment or energized machinery- such as server rooms or electrical substations- it is safer to choose alternative firefighting methods to avoid any risk of electric shock.
Class A Foam
Class A foam, also known as “Aqueous Film-Forming Foam” or “AFFF,” is a foam formulated explicitly for fighting ordinary combustible fires. This could involve the following materials:
It works by cooling the fuel surface and forming an aqueous film that helps prevent re-ignition.
Class B Foam
Class B Foam is a type of foam fire extinguisher specifically designed to combat flammable liquid fires. It is an effective and versatile option for dealing with fires involving the following:
- Other similar substances
This type of foam forms a blanket over the fuel source, smothering the flames and preventing re-ignition.
One benefit of Class B Foam extinguishers is their ability to quickly suppress fires by cooling down the fuel source and creating a barrier between it and oxygen. This helps to break the fire triangle by eliminating one of its key components – heat. The foam’s expansion properties also make it highly effective in covering large areas.
Where Can Foam Fire Extinguishers Be Used?
Foam fire extinguishers are incredibly versatile and can be used in various settings to combat different types of fires effectively. Here are some common places where foam fire extinguishers can be used:
Foam fire extinguishers are suitable for residential properties, making them ideal for protecting your family and property from the dangers of fires. They can handle Class A (solid materials) and Class B (flammable liquids) fires commonly found in homes.
Offices and Warehouses
In office environments, they provide a reliable means of suppressing solid material fires caused by paper or wood. In addition, given their effectiveness against Class A and B fires, foam fire extinguishers prove valuable in warehouse settings with diverse inventories.
Retail establishments often contain a mix of items that could fuel either solid material or flammable liquid fires. Having foam fire extinguishers strategically placed throughout the store helps ensure quick response during emergencies.
Garages and Workshops
Areas with tools, fuel sources like gasoline cans or propane tanks, oily rags, and other potential ignition sources necessitate having foam fire extinguishers nearby. They can help to tackle any potential hazards swiftly.
Where Can Foam Fire Extinguishers Not Be Used?
In certain situations, foam fire extinguishers may not be the best to combat fires. It’s essential to always assess the nature of a specific fire situation before using any type of fire extinguisher.
The water content in the foam can conduct electricity and pose a risk of electrocution to anyone attempting to use it on live electrical equipment or wiring. In such cases, it is crucial to use a CO2 or dry powder fire extinguisher specifically designed for electrical fires.
Cooking Oils or Fats
Foam fire extinguishers should not be used on flammable liquid fires involving cooking oils or fats. When applied to these types of fires, the foam can cause splattering and spread the flames further instead of suppressing them. It is essential to use a wet chemical fire extinguisher specially formulated for kitchen or deep fryer fires.
Confined Spaces With Poor Ventilation
The discharge of the foam creates an oxygen-excluding blanket over the burning material, which can lead to an accumulation of toxic gases within enclosed areas. This poses significant health risks for both occupants and firefighters alike.
Additionally, foam fire extinguishers may not be suitable for certain sensitive environments, such as:
- Art galleries
- Computer rooms
- Data centers
The residue left by the foaming agent can cause damage to valuable artifacts or electronic equipment if not properly cleaned up after use.
Are Foam Fire Extinguishers Safe?
Foam fire extinguishers are a popular choice for combating fires, but many wonder if they are safe. The answer is yes; foam fire extinguishers are generally safe when used properly and in the appropriate situations.
Proper training is crucial when it comes to using foam fire extinguishers. It’s essential to know how to operate them effectively and safely. This includes understanding the correct technique for aiming at the base of the fire and sweeping from side to side.
Another factor contributing to their safety is their ability to suppress flames quickly. Foam can create a “blanket” effect on flammable materials, smothering the fire and preventing its spread. This makes foam fire extinguishers particularly effective for Class A fires involving solid combustible materials like wood or paper.
It’s important to note that foam fire extinguishers should not be used on certain fires. They are unsuitable for electrical fires as water conducts electricity and may put you at risk of electrocution. Additionally, they should not be used on flammable liquids such as gasoline or oil-based fires, as this can cause them to spread further.
Concerns About PFAS Content
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have been a topic of concern in recent years. These chemical compounds are commonly found in foam fire extinguishers. The presence of PFAS in these extinguishers has raised questions about their safety.
This chemical is often added to Class A and B fire extinguishers.
One of the main concerns with PFAS is their potential impact on human health and the environment. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS can lead to various adverse effects, including developmental issues, liver damage, and increased risk of certain cancers. This has led to calls for stricter regulations on using and disposing of foam fire extinguishers containing PFAS.
Another issue related to PFAS is their persistence in the environment. These chemicals do not break down easily and can accumulate over time, posing a long-term threat to ecosystems. This has prompted efforts to find alternative firefighting foams that are effective without relying on PFAS.
Addressing PFAS Concerns
It’s important to note that foam fire extinguishers remain essential for combating certain types of fires. They are particularly effective against Class A (ordinary combustibles) and Class B (flammable liquids) fires.
Proper handling and disposal procedures should be followed to address concerns about PFAS contamination from foam fire extinguishers. Working with certified professionals who can safely remove any expired or damaged extinguishers containing PFAS is crucial.
While there are valid concerns surrounding foam fire extinguishers due to their content of potentially harmful substances like PFASs, they still play a vital role in fire safety measures when used correctly and responsibly. In addition, some companies are now producing fire extinguishers marketed as “fluorine-free.”
Why Do You Need an SDS for Foam Extinguishers Containing PFAS?
Foam fire extinguishers are an effective and commonly used tool for combating fires. They provide a quick suppression method and can be used in various situations. However, it is crucial to understand the potential risks associated with foam fire extinguishers containing PFAS.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are required for foam extinguishers containing PFAS to address these concerns. An SDS provides detailed information about the chemical composition of a product.
This includes information about:
- Any hazardous ingredients
- Safety precautions
- Handling instructions
- Emergency response procedures
Having an SDS for foam extinguishers containing PFAS is essential for several reasons.
Health and Safety
The presence of PFAS in firefighting foams raises concerns about exposure risks for firefighters and individuals at the fire scene. An SDS helps promote awareness by providing crucial information on handling these substances safely.
Foam fire extinguisher residues can contaminate soil or water sources if not properly contained or cleaned up after use. Understanding the environmental impact of foam containing PFAS through an SDS enables appropriate disposal methods to minimize harm.
Many countries have regulations that require companies using products with potentially hazardous ingredients like PFAS to provide proper documentation detailing their usage. Users can make informed decisions by accessing an SDS specifically tailored for foam fire extinguishers containing PFAS.
Manage Your SDS With Ease
Foam fire extinguishers can be useful in many situations. However, they do come with some risks. Having a foam fire extinguisher SDS can help your employees understand the risks and how to address them.
KHA Online SDS has been exclusively involved in the SDS market since 1985. We keep up to date with the latest tech so you can easily access your SDS. Contact us today to find out more.