(WJBK) – Firefighters often use fire suppression foams to put out fires – but one type of foam, some Class B foams are known to contain PFAS. 

PFAS are strong substances that can get into our drinking water when products containing them are used or spilled onto the ground.

“We’re all exposed to PFAS because it’s been in a number of chemicals, for example Scotchgard, Teflon, those things, in many consumer products,” said Carol Isaacs, Michigan PFAS Action Response director. “It has been since this chemical was created in the 1940s.

“The concern Michigan has, is with very elevated levels in drinking water. So we have some sites in Michigan we are investigating and it is our purpose to protect the public health.”

And PFAS has been linked to cancer. The Bureau of Fire Services is working to make sure every fire department in the state of Michigan discontinues use of Class B foam with PFAS.

“All of the PFAS foam in our department has been identified and put into storage,” said Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee. “We are just waiting to hear back from the state fire marshal on how to dispose of that product.”

Not all Class B foam contains PFAS and in general, Class B foam is not commonly used to put out fires.

“When we do use Class B foam it’s not very common,” Menifee said. “In my career I probably used it approximately five times.”

“It has been used when a fuel tanker overturned on a bridge,” said Kev in Sehlmeyer, state fire marshal. “It has been used sometimes if there is an event at a gas station, where there is gas on the ground.”

“Just because you see foam used, it’s not necessarily a Class B foam that has PFAS,” Menifee said. “You don’t have to be alarmed if you see firefighters covered in it.”