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Green Foam

     Ever since firefighting Foam was introduced around 1928 it has saved lives, reduced destruction and property loss many times over. Economic loss from hazardous fires has decreased throughout entire communities as a result of Foam usage.

     In the early days of technology, many non-biodegradable components formed the constituents of firefighting Foam. Water treatment facilities dealing with Foam run-off after a fire have had challenges also. Many of these components became EPA listed hazards and were discovered to be detrimental to the environment. New “green” Foams such as National Foams “Universal Gold”, were born out of technology, and stepped up to the plate to ease these environmental anxieties. These new “green Foams” address water treatment challenges, bio-degradability, and satisfy EPA regulations as they contain no hazardous substances.

     Since 1995 the EPA {Environmental Protection Agency} has been evaluating and re-evaluating its RQ {Reportable Quantities} designation for some of the constituents used in many AFFF {Aqueous Film Forming Foam} and AR-AFFF {Alcohol-Resistant Aqueous Film Forming} Foams. The EPA maintains that users of RQ chemicals are still responsible for the environmental clean-up, regardless of where these limits are set. Ultimate responsibility resides with the user to eliminate all contamination to the environment even if they are minimally accepted limits. Two of the major culprits of contamination have been ethylene glycol and ethylene oxide based glycol ethers.

     “Green” Foams such as “Universal Gold” have none of these constituents and offer the user many more options. Their firefighting ability has even impressed their inventors with the ability to assist in the difficult world of class “D” fires. They can be processed by most water treatment facilities, {always check with your local authority first} and increase the possibility of training scenarios where their more toxic counterparts will not.  Even if water treatment guidelines disagree, State, local and Federal regulations for waste or storm water can be met by confinement and long term vaporization of run-off if necessary.

     “Green Foam” opens the door to real world training scenarios allowing the firefighter to actually experience proper application while being confident they are acting in an environmentally responsible manner.

     In Hazardous Materials use, these “Green Foams” have four main benefits they offer to the Hazardous Materials Technician. They consist of, 1] BOD, 2] COD, 3] Treat ability, and 4} Vapor Mitigation. When responding to and mitigating an incident, the Haz-Mat responder must use his options to improve the scene, while not contributing to the problem. By using these types of environmentally friendly “tools” you reduce overall contamination on the site.

     BOD stands for Biological Oxygen Demand. This gives a numerical value for the amount of oxygen that is consumed from the environment by the decay of organic material. Generally speaking, the higher the BOD number indicates a greater amount of organic or carbon based content in the organic matter.

     COD stands for Chemical Oxygen Demand. Here we are applying a numeric value for the amount of dissolved oxygen that is required in a system to completely oxidize a chemical substance. Our unit of measure for effectiveness becomes the ratio of BOD/COD which is a rating for a Foams overall environmental effectiveness. By the way, small numbers below the BOD refer to the number of days for this decay to occur. Ratios above 0.5 are considered acceptable, see the slides.


     Treat-ability is a common process in the waste business, primarily to minimize harmful dusts and odors through the application of Foam. Foam solution can be successfully treated in water treatment plants. The key to this operation is pre-planning. Early notification of your tactical choice to use “green foam” on a spill or fire, to your local waste water treatment plant can be the difference between a “wash-down” and long term “confinement” of large volumes of run-off. When using this technique, always have on hand the Foams’ MSDS for your waste water treatment facility.

    Vapor suppression is the utmost of concern for Haz-Mat responders. “Green” Foams such as “Universal Gold”, must be used with medium expansion equipment to provide the best results. 30 to 50:1 expansion ratios, slow ¼ drain times, minimal interface, thicker blankets, and high vapor suppression is common. These products replace the former Haz-Mat Foams that needed a 6% eduction rate with 3%. This of course doubles the effective coverage area with the same volume of Foam concentrate you have on hand. I have been involved with a test where Universal Gold extinguished a class “D” powdered metal fire; at any percentage extinguishing a water reactive chemical with water, is very impressive. Link to slides.

                                                          Haz-Mat Mike  





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