Five-year transition period proposed

New Zealand’s EPA is consulting on plans to phase out the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in firefighting foam.

The EPA considers that “these types of foams can be phased out as there are fluorine-free alternatives to PFAS firefighting foams now available that are already being used worldwide,” it said.

Firefighting foams are regulated under New Zealand’s Fire Fighting Chemicals Group Standard 2017. The proposed amendments are being treated as an application under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.

They would phase out legacy fluorotelomer C8 aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs) as well as “modern” fluorotelomer C6 foams.

The EPA proposes a raft of changes to the group standard, including:

  • allowing the use of firefighting foam products containing PFAS that are already installed in systems, such as fire trucks, where the use cannot be fully contained, for a period of two years;
  • allowing firefighting foam products that contain PFAS to be used where they are already installed in fixed systems, and where their use can be fully contained on site, for a period of five years;
  • requiring thorough cleaning of all firefighting systems to remove any residual PFAS compounds when transitioning to a non-fluorinated foam product;
  • asking all importers and/or manufacturers to notify the EPA of the composition of any firefighting foam products when they are first imported or manufactured;
  • requiring that all firefighting foam products that contain PFAS and all fluorinated organic wastes are safely disposed of by an approved method; and
  • ensuring that foam suppliers clearly display the producer’s certification of fluorine content.

The agency acknowledges that there is currently no facility in New Zealand for their disposal. “Export for disposal at a recognised facility is the only viable option,” it says.

PFOS and PFOA are excluded from the scope of the group standard because they are already listed as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention. However, foams with PFOA-related compounds will remain within scope during the transition period.

The EPA, which notified the WTO of its intentions on 26 September, is seeking public comment on the proposals until 2 December.

It will send a summary of comments to all submitters and then publish its final decision.

Mounting public concern

PFASs are highly persistent in the environment and can enter water systems when used in firefighting products. Some, such as PFOA and PFOS, are proven to cause adverse health effects in humans. Public concerns over exposure are mounting, especially in the US.

The US EPA has a federal plan to manage the risks posed by PFAS, which includes a proposal for nationwide monitoring of drinking water.

Meanwhile, legislators in over a dozen US states have passed or considered legislation to ban or restrict PFAS in firefighting foams this year. For example, New Hampshire recently signed legislation limiting this use.

In May, Australian firefighters called on international negotiators at the UN’s Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants to ban PFAS in firefighting foams.

*Original article online at