WA May Ban Cancer-Causing Firefighting Chemicals
Jan. 24–OLYMPIA, WA– Local fire departments could be banned from using a group of firefighting chemicals that are contaminating some wells in Airway Heights and other water sources near military bases.
They may also be responsible for a high rate of cancers in firefighters, said Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, who is sponsoring a bill to restrict the use of perfluorinated or polyfluorinated compounds, or PFAS, starting in July 2020.
"Cancer is now the leading cause of job-related deaths for firefighters," Peterson said.
All instances of water contaminated by PFAS in Washington are tied to the use of firefighting foams, Erika Schreder, of Toxic Free Future, said.
In Airway Heights, the contamination is linked to firefighting practice with the foam on Fairchild Air Force Base.
The state can’t tell the Defense Department not to use PFAS foams on its bases, or the Federal Aviation Administration not to require their use at airports.
"It doesn’t take much of this to ruin an aquifer," Steven Swanson, a retired emergency room physician from Coupeville who said his and his neighbors’ wells are contaminated from PFAS use on a nearby naval station.
But Jessica Bowman, of the FluoroCouncil, an organization that represents companies that manufacture fluoro-based products, argued the legislation is too broad.
The new PFAS are not carcinogenic, she said, and are critical to fighting fires in aviation fuels.
Barb Morrissey, of the state Department of Health, said even the new chemicals are extremely mobile if they get into the soil and have a high potential to wind up in drinking water.