All About AFFF: Your Guide To Understanding Aqueous Film Forming Foam

AFFF and Firetruck fire suppression


Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) is an effective firefighting substance that has been used for years in industrial applications. Unfortunately, as we learn more about toxins and chemicals like PFAS, the use of AFFF has become increasingly controversial. Here’s what you need to know about this firefighting solution, why it’s so popular, and why it is no longer the best option for our facilities or our environment. 

What Is AFFF?

Aqueous Film Forming Foam is a highly-effective fire suppressant made from a synthetic mixture containing fluorinated and hydrocarbon-based surfactants. It’s mainly used in civil and military aviation, oil industries, and applications with a significant flammable liquid hazard present. 

Some other examples of AFFF applications include:

  • Chemical plants
  • Highway emergency response
  • Oil tankers and offshore platforms
  • Oil refineries and terminals
  • Military facilities
  • Fire departments
  • Flammable liquid storage and processing facilities

How Does AFFF Work?

AFFF is a top-notch solution for fighting high-hazard flammable liquid fires. Foam suppression systems that use AFFF extinguish a fire by separating hot fuels from oxygen. You apply it to the hazard, and the AFFF produces an aqueous film that spreads across the surface of the fire, extinguishing the flame. The film from AFFF works by suppressing flammable liquid vapor and suffocating the fire hazard entirely. The foam will further suppress the fire and keep hot fuel from reuniting. 

Many types of foam are used, including low expansion foam in fixed systems petroleum and petrochemical loading racks, refinery processing equipment, product transfer and storage areas and offshore platforms, above-ground bulk fuel storage tanks, and many other facilities.

Is AFFF Harmful?

While AFFF is an effective fire-fighting substance, it presents a risk to human health and environmental safety. AFFF contains fluorine chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. In small quantities, PFAS aren’t harmful. Still, if a person suffers from long-term exposure, there can be severe consequences – including cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease and imbalance, immune disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and more. 

In addition, PFAS does not dilute, degrade, or disappear. They can move through soil and concrete, contaminate drinking water, and more. Because of this extreme pervasiveness, PFAS can have dangerous repercussions for humans, animals, and the environment. 

How Total Industrial Solutions Can Support Your Facility’s Use of AFFF

Total Industrial Solutions is an oil and gas industry-focused company specializing in industrial fire protection and construction. Our expert technicians understand your day-to-day operations and the importance of a safe and efficient work environment. We use top-notch fire solutions, including dry chemical solutions, flame detection systems, fire pump systems, and foam systems. As regulations increase against AFFF and the PFAS it contains, we’re working hard to support our partners as they transition to safer, more effective solutions. 

Our knowledgeable team has decades of experience in hazardous and industrial fire protection, including tank farms, terminals, refineries, or offshore platforms. We’re here to help you develop a foam suppression system that is effective and safe. 

If you’re interested in the fire solutions offered by TIS, give us a call today or visit us online.