Perfluorinated substances have been used for about 50 years in surface finishes of textiles, cleaning agents, kitchen utensils and firefighting agents as well as to coat food packaging, for example. PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) is one of the most widely known substances and has been used for firefighting foam, among other things. In recent years, it has been found that PFOS can be harmful to animals. There may also be a risk of it being harmful to humans, although no such harm has been identified so far. We all have some level of PFOS in us from the food we eat and sometimes from different chemical products that enter our system in a different way. PFOS can therefore be measured, for example, in our blood.
PFOS at Malmö Airport
Fire extinguishing foams that contain PFOS has not been used in firefighting exercises at Malmö Airport since 2008. The airports firefighting exercise site has been equipped with a compact base slab that collects the water and foam that ends up on the slab ever since the 1970's when it started to be used. Collected water is pumped from the site via and aired dam to Svedala treatment facility. Regular checks at the airport, however, have shown that PFOS has leaked into the ground by the firefighting exercise site and its surroundings. There is a high probability that this is due to the fire extinguishing foam previously used.
Due to PFOS being found outside the collection system at the firefighting exercise site, controls of the stormwater leaving the airport were expanded in 2009. As the initial samples of stomwater showed higher levels of PFOS here as well, concerned parties such as the County Administrative Board, municipalities, fishing organisations, water conservation coalitions and neighbours were informed.
What has been done?
Since January 2012, Swedavia has a coal filter installed at the firefighting exercise site to minimise the spread of PFOS to ditches and waste water. In the spring 2013, a system for better collection was put into effect. Swedavia has and will continue to take samples of water and fish in the lakes for several years. The results are presented to the County Administrative Board and the reference group. Within a few year, it will be possible to judge how the levels of PFOS decrease in the surface water surrounding the airport.
Since June 2011, all use of fire extinguishing foams containing PFOS are prohibited in the EU.