Project Overview Schematic

Given the widespread persistence and environmental impacts associated with the use of aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs) containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), there is a need to develop PFAS-free firefighting formulations (F3s) to replace old technologies in fire-suppression operations. However, before the selection and implementation of F3 alternatives, research must address their potential environmental impacts. The primary goal of this project is to assess the relative toxicity to aquatic species of F3 alternatives.  

The project team will address the following questions: 

  1. Are PFAS-free F3s toxic to common aquatic species in North America (i.e., zooplankton, fish, and amphibians)?
  2. 2If F3s are toxic, what is their relative toxicity to the three focal species?
  3. How does the toxicity of F3 compare to a legacy, short chain AFFF product?
  4. Do F3s bioaccumulate within aquatic species and, if so, what is the distribution of bioconcentration factors across the focal species?

Technical Approach

The project team will address the goal by conducting controlled laboratory experiments with zooplankton (water fleas, Daphnia magna), fish (fathead minnows, Pimephales promelas), and larval amphibians (gray treefrogs, Hyla versicolor). To facilitate comparisons across these species, the project team will standardize the treatments and experimental approaches. The experiments will focus on chronic exposures and address ecologically relevant endpoints (e.g., reproduction, growth, development). Importantly, the approach will be consistent with good laboratory practices that have been established from a previously funded SERDP project (ER-2626). High resolution mass spectrometry will be employed to add insight into what chemical(s) may be causing responses in the proposed toxicity studies by qualitatively evaluating chemical bioaccumulation.


The core outcome of these studies will be an improved understanding of the potential chronic effects of F3s on the reproduction, growth, and development of aquatic species in North America. Importantly, the empirical results will address the toxicity and bioaccumulation of F3s relative to a legacy, short-chain AFFF product. Thus, the research will equip the DoD for making sound ecological risk assessments as they move forward in the selection process of suitable PFAS-free AFFF alternatives. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2024).


Jones, D.K., K.A. Quinlin, M.A. Wigren, Y.J. Choi, M.S. SepĂșlveda, L.S. Lee, D.L. Haskins, G.R. Lotufo, A. Kennedy, L. May, A. Harmon, T. Biber, N. Melby, M.K. Chanov, M.L. Hudson, P.B. Key, K.W. Chung, D.W. Moore, J.G. Suski, E.F. Wirth, and J.T. Hoverman. 2022. Acute Toxicity of Eight Aqueous Film-Forming Foams to 14 Aquatic Species. Environmental Science & Technology, 56(10): 6078-6090. doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c03776