Wisconsin legislators have approved new restrictions on flourine firefighting foam, and hope to ban it during training exercises. - Photo by Anton Riecher.

Wisconsin legislators have approved new restrictions on flourine firefighting foam, and hope to ban it during training exercises.

Photo by Anton Riecher.

Wisconsin state legislators voted Tuesday to tighten restrictions on the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to by some as "forever chemicals," in firefighting foam.

Senate Bill 310, which was approved Tuesday, would ban firefighting foam with "intentionally added" PFAS in fire training exercises.

"It still allows the use of Class B firefighting foam for true emergencies because PFAS-containing foams are the most effective at addressing the dangerous circumstances that can arise from flammable liquid fires on a highway or runway, at a factory, or elsewhere," according to a statement from Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), the legislation's sponsor.

The bill now goes to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk for approval.

The vote comes days after the state's Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health Services recommended PFAS-based fish consumption advisories for Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona in Dane County.

"This legislation will reduce the impact that PFAS compounds have on Wisconsin residents and the environment by banning the unconfined use of this firefighting foam that contains intentionally-added PFAS except in emergencies," Cowles said. "These firefighting foams are lifesaving products that may still be necessary to protect the safety of first responders and community members."

The new regulations, if signed into law, will complement LRB 4489, which funds a program to collect and safely dispose of unused and unwanted PFAS-containing firefighting foam.

PFAS belongs to a group of manufactured chemicals referred to as fluorinated chemicals that have a strong fluorine-carbon bond. That bond, according to the International Fire Chiefs Association, has made PFAS indispensable in aqueous-film forming foam used in large-volume flammable liquid firefighting.

Its use for decades in products such as non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays, and specific types of firefighting foams has made PFAS ubiquitous in the environment. Excessive exposure to PFAS has been linked to immune systems issues, cancer, thyroid hormone distribution, hormone production and regulation, and cholesterol levels.

Here a few examples of recently passed state regulation involving tougher regulation of PFAS:

  • Colorado: On June 3, Gov. Jared Polis signed H.B.1279, banning the use of Class B aqueous film forming foam. The bill also forbids the sale of PFAS foam under certain conditions and requires manufacturers to agree to regulations and limits the use and issuing of all AFFF.
  • Kentucky: On March 22, Gov. Matt Bevin signed S.B. 104, banning the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS for training and testing purposes. This law will go into effect in July.
  • Georgia: In May, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law that restricts the use of AFFF during training and authorizes its use during emergencies.
  • Pennsylvania: In the fall of 2018, Pennsylvania formed a multiagency action team to address PFAS concerns. Many residents in different areas around the state expressed concern about PFAS due to contamination being found within their water system. In addition, the state plans to hire a toxicologist and two associates under the toxicologist to evaluate multiple strategies to keep PFAS out of all drinking water systems.