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Characterization of the Chemical Contents of Fluorinated and Fluorine-Free Firefighting Foams Using a Novel Workflow Combining Nontarget Screening and Total Fluorine Analysis

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posted on 2019-12-16, 16:16 authored by Florian Dubocq, Thanh Wang, Leo W. Y. Yeung, Viktor Sjöberg, Anna Kärrman
Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) are widely used to extinguish liquid fires due to their film-forming properties. AFFF formulation historically contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) that can be very persistent and pose a health risk to biota and humans. Detailed analysis of the chemical composition of AFFFs can provide a better understanding on the potential environmental impact of the ingredients. In this study, a novel workflow combining target analysis, nontarget screening analysis (NTA), total fluorine (TF) analysis, and inorganic fluoride (IF) analysis was applied to disclose the chemical composition of 24 foams intended for liquid fires. Foams marketed as containing PFASs as well as fluorine-free foams were included. By comparing the sum of targeted PFASs and total organofluorine concentrations, a mass balance of known and unknown organofluorine could be calculated. Known organofluorine accounted for <1% in most fluorine-containing AFFFs, and it was confirmed that the foams marketed as fluorine-free did not contain measurable amounts of organofluorine substances. Five fluorinated substances were tentatively identified, and non-fluorinated zwitterionic betaine compounds, which are considered to be replacement substances for PFASs, were tentatively identified in the organofluorine-free foams.