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Civilian Exposure PFOA Firefighter Foam

Military Bases and Fire Fighting Foam

by Civilian Exposure

This is the latest chemical issue for groundwater contamination springing up at military bases everywhere over the past 18 months.  If not already an issue at Camp Lejeune, it likely soon will be. Here’s what we found in recent articles that caught our eye:

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8, a chemical that for six decades was used by DuPont in the production of Teflon and other products. Research on people in West Virginia and Ohio who had consumed water contaminated by leaks from a nearby DuPont factory showed probable links between the chemical and six diseases, including kidney cancer. Cervera soon discovered that the very same chemical, as well as a related one, PFOS, had been found in drinking water in her area. Both were part of a larger class known as perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, “emerging contaminants” that were still being studied — and had yet to be regulated. And, according to public notices from the local water and sewer authorities, both had come from foam that was used to put out airplane fires and train soldiers at two nearby military bases — the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and a former naval air station at Willow Grove, now owned by the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. – (The Intercept, Dec 2015)

As you may recall, we recently profiled the Willow Grove site and noted this very issue.  In recent months, the DOD has come out and said that it will begin testing at 664 military sites around the country for potential groundwater contamination that is coming from the use of this firefighting foam.

By the way, here’s a link to the AP article on that development.

This is another example where best intentions usually lead to unforeseen results.  Here’s why the foam is so bad:

The sudsy liquid, dubbed “Aqueous Film-Forming Foam,” or AFFF, put out hydrocarbon fires more quickly and effectively than ever before by smothering them. Since it was developed, the military has been using huge quantities of the foam, which has been heralded for saving firefighters’ lives. Unfortunately, 3M’s miracle product also contained PFOS. And the other official formulation of the foam purchased by the Department of Defense contains “telomers,” compounds that can break down into PFOA and other PFCs. In addition to being linked to health problems, PFOA and PFOS stay in the human body for years and, unless they are removed, persist in the environment indefinitely. – (The Intercept, Dec 2015)

Of course, PFOAs are linked to some nasty stuff.  It’s also proliferated around the world at bases and installations in other countries.  Many of those folks are just waking up to the nightmare.  At one area in Holland, most people didn’t even know about the dangers of PFOA. Their reaction, well, is obvious. When you read the following, I’m sure it will sound familiar to most of you at Lejeune and other bases:

“They’re pissed off,” said Paul Brooks, a physician from West Virginia who went to Holland and told people about the research that enabled epidemiologists to link PFOA to preeclampsia, ulcerative colitis, and two types of cancer, among other conditions. “They knew absolutely nothing about the links to disease, nothing,” said Brooks.

Civilian Exposure - Perfluorochemical Fire Fighting Foam Canister

It would appear that there is a groundswell of activity now in regards to the public waking up to chemical contamination.

Are the DOD’s “chemical chickens” coming home to roost?


Were you a firefighter at a military installation in the US?  Did you use this firefighting foam or know of others that may have been exposed to it?  Let us know your stories and experiences as we uncover more about yet another deadly contaminant in base water supplies in the US.


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Dean H Holmes April 21, 2016 - 7:17 pm

I was a firefighter at Camp Lejeune, N. C. I’m not sure if we used this type of foam(1970-
1976), but Camp Lejeune is on the LIST!

Alayna Davis April 23, 2016 - 12:29 am

The former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH (now the Pease International Tradeport employing over 9,500 people) shut down the Haven well in May 2014 based on PFC test results showing PFOS levels at 2500 ppt. (PFOA was also found at 350 ppt and PFHxS at 830 ppt). They used AFFF at the base from the 70s until it closed down in the 90s. Our community has so many unanswered questions about the impacts this may have caused on our health. Among the Tradeport businesses are two daycares (where my son consumed contaminated water from 12 weeks old to age 5 and a half), several health and dental practices, local colleges, restaurants and so many more businesses where citizens make their livings (I also worked at the Tradeport for 7 years, when I was also pregnant and nursing my son before he began attending daycare). The remaining two wells supplying water to Pease still have detectable levels of PFCs (although they fall below the PHAs), and here we are 2 years later. 1600 people who were exposed at Pease were able to have their blood levels tested for PFCs, and so far results have shown elevated levels compared to national averages. My sons levels were elevated, especially for PFHxS. Although a well treatment plan is in process, there are still so many unknowns for those exposed now and for the thousands of people who were living here when it was an active AF base. The EPA needs to release their revised PHAs as soon as possible – with the evidence of serious health effects and long half-lives of these awful chemicals PFCs need to be regulated! We have a petition: https://www.change.org/p/epa-protect-our-health-lower-the-pha-levels-for-pfcs-to-non-detect pushing the EPA to regulate PFCs to non-detect! Please sign and share! I would be interested in speaking with any other communities impacted by PFC contamination. Thanks for posting info about PFCs on your website – the more people who know about them, the better chance of banding together for change!

Civilian Exposure
Civilian Exposure April 27, 2016 - 12:32 am

Thank you for providing even more specifics regarding Pease and updated information on PFOAs and PFCs. Indeed, the number of stories regarding PFOAs is growing rapidly. Yet another deadly chemical in the poisonous cocktail typical of contamination at most bases across the country. I’ll be happy to add your links to our Pease profile page and would be happy to speak with you about how we can work together to get the word out. – GS

Carl Davis February 28, 2017 - 6:11 pm

Was navel base in Memphis air base back in the 70s on the list

William A September 13, 2019 - 4:37 pm

Was in USAF in crash rescue we used foam for practice and on plane crashes now I have lekumina


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