Treatment for pollution from fire-fighting foam

Melbourne: An Australian team led by a scientist of Indian origin claims to have developed a groundbreaking solution for treating water and soil pollution from the toxic remnants of fire-fighting foam.


This breakthrough comes at a time of growing global concerns over cancer and environmental risks of long-lasting chemicals found in the foams that have been used for half a century.

The team from the CRC CARE (Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment) has developed a new substance called MatCARETM to treat waste-water remnants at a fire site or practice area that has been hosed down.

According to lead scientist of CRC CARE Ravi Naidu, the advance is based on the use of modified natural materials that break down the foam’s chemicals into harmless substances.

“There are over 49, 000 airports around the world, including 450 civilian and military airports in Australia alone. Many of these have used foam in fire-fighting exercises for many years, as well as in actual aircraft fires, and the chemicals have been subsequently detected in nearby groundwater and streams.

Practical, cost-effective

“It is the first practical, cost-effective clean-up solution to the large-scale water and soil pollution caused by decades of foam use all over the world,” said Professor Naidu.

“Both PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) increase effectiveness of the foam as a fire quencher. However, both are highly toxic chemicals and if they enter local water sources, they can accumulate in the food chain and in humans.


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