International civil aviation regulations adopted by Australia specify performance, training and operational requirements for aviation rescue fire fighting (ARFF) services, including for fire fighting foams.
Since the 1950s, various types of foams have been used by rescue fire fighting services at airports around Australia. Fire training grounds at airports have generally been used for necessary training activities, including the use of fire fighting foam.
From the early 1980s until the early 2000s, a fire fighting foam called 3M Lightwater was used. This product contained perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) as an active ingredient and other per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
Following increasing concerns about the possible environmental and health impacts of PFOS, in 2003 Airservices changed to another approved fire fighting foam called Ansulite that was understood to not contain PFOS or PFOA. It was later found to contain trace amounts of both these chemicals. In 2010, Airservices transitioned to a PFAS-free foam, Solberg RF6, at all airports where we provide ARFF services with the exception of the joint civil-military airports of Darwin and Townsville.
Airservices has sought to take a proactive and responsible approach to managing the PFAS issue by developing a better understanding of the issues through site assessments, implementing a research and development program, and open and transparent stakeholder engagement and communication.
Keeping you informed
Airservices is committed to providing information to our stakeholders, including the community, on what we are doing to respond to PFAS concerns. We are currently undertaking risk assessments of airport sites where fire fighting foams containing PFAS have been used to determine if any migration of PFAS residues from fire stations and training grounds has occurred which may have impacted beneficial users.
Further site testing may commence following the outcomes of the risk assessment and will be based on a range of factors developed in consultation with regulators and experts.
- About per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
- Airservices use of fire fighting foams
- Health-based guidance values for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for use in site investigations in Australia
- Airservices submission to Senate Inquiry Part B: Contamination at Commonwealth, state and territory sites in Australia where fire fighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA were used.
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