Deterministic risk assessment of firefighting water additives to terrestrial organisms Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Firefighting water additives are used to increase the rate at which fires can be extinguished. The majority of ecotoxicological research has focused on firefighting formulations containing perfluorinated compounds as additives, due to the persistence and bioaccumulative nature of the perfluorinated constituents. A number of relatively new additives have come on the market to replace the products containing perfluorinated compounds. The potential effect of these new additives on the environment has been largely unstudied. This study investigated the toxicity of six firefighting water additives: Eco-Gel™, ThermoGel 200L™, FireAde™, Fire-Brake™, Novacool Foam™, and F-500™ to terrestrial biota. Terrestrial organisms could be exposed to firefighting water additives through leaching into soil and/or runoff following a firefighting event or through direct aerial application during a forest fire. Toxicity to three plant species was assessed through seedling germination and emergence tests: Fagopyrum esculentum (buckwheat), Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus (radish), and Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan). The effects of firefighting water additives on three soil invertebrates, the collembolan Folsomia candida, the earthworms Eisenia andrei, and Dendrodrilus rubidus, were also investigated using static acute tests to estimate EC50/LC50s. The concentration that resulted in a 50% reduction in survival (LC50) for the acute toxicity tests conducted with F. candida ranged from 3 (Eco-Gel) to 0.175% (Novacool) by volume. Comparatively, the acute toxicity of two firefighting water additives to D. rubidus could not be determined, as a 50% reduction in survival was not observed. A number of firefighting water additives were found to pose a hazard to terrestrial organisms based on a worst-case exposure scenario of direct application at the greatest recommended application rate for a class A fire (e.g., wood, paper). The firefighting water additive F-500 was found to pose a hazard (HQ ≥ 1) for all species tested, except for the acute test conducted with D. rubidus. Comparatively, Eco-Gel posed a hazard for only the acute and chronic tests with F. candida. This study represents the first comparative deterministic risk assessment of firefighting water additives to terrestrial ecosystems.


  • Graetz, Sarah
  • Martin, William
  • Washuck, Nicole
  • Anderson, Jenna
  • Sibley, Paul K
  • Prosser, Ryan

publication date

  • April 2021