Minimizing the environmental impact of PFAS by using specialized coagulants for the treatment of PFAS polluted waters and for the decontamination of firefighting equipment

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) represent an increasingly global challenge for keeping water and soil “non-toxic”. 100 of millions of people are exposed to PFAS levels of concern, in particular, around PFAS production sites and sites where PFASs are/were used and released or disposed. The Stockholm Convention established recommendations to systematically assess PFOS pollution which can be transposed to all PFASs considering that PFASs are an issue of concern under The Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM). One major wide-spread source of environmental pollution is the long-term use of PFAS-containing fire extinguishing agents. Strategies for the reduction of human exposure need to reduce and were feasible eliminate the current uses of PFASs and reduce and eliminate the human exposure from the contamination of the environment from past uses including contaminated drinking water.

The current study shows that well-known methods of water treatment, especially the use of materials for adsorption and ion exchange, can often neither guarantee satisfactory cleaning results nor economically justifiable filter running times at high PFAS concentrations and complex matrix conditions. Their combination with a pre-precipitation stage using specialized precipitants can significantly optimize treatment successes.

PFAS is still being released into the environment in considerable quantities by e.g. the use of so-called aqueous film forming foams (AFFF). Fire departments are increasingly trying to reduce the risks associated with the use of AFFF agents for the health of firefighting personnel and the environment by replacing AFFF foaming agents with fluorine-free foaming agents. If the fluorine-containing foaming agents are simply replaced, considerable residual PFAS loads often remain in the fire extinguishing systems contaminated with PFAS (fire engines, fire boats, stationary fire extinguishing systems, etc.), which are then discharged further into the environment during renewed operations - normally at a reduced concentration. The current study demonstrate that a conscientious decontamination of systems previously in contact with PFAS is therefore urgently required. Here, too, precipitants specialized for PFAS adsorption can make an important contribution to protecting the environment. Sites were firefighting equipment has been cleaned over years can also be considered contaminated and need assessment and possibly remediation.


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