Firefighters' exposure to perfluoroalkyl acids and 2-butoxyethanol present in firefighting foams

Toxicol Lett. 2014 Dec 1;231(2):227-32. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.09.007. Epub 2014 Oct 17.


The aim of this study was to assess eight firefighters' exposure to Sthamex 3% AFFF (aqueous film forming foam) in the simulation of aircraft accidents at Oulu airport in Finland. Study was conducted in 2010 before limitation for the use of PFOA and PFOS in AFFFs. Due to prospective limitation also eight commercially available AFFFs were evaluated from occupational and environmental point of view to find substitutive AFFFs for future. The firefighters' exposure to twelve perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAS) was analyzed in order to observe the signs of accumulation during three consecutive training sessions. The firefighters' short-term exposure to 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) was analyzed by urinalysis of 2-butoxyacetic acid (2-BAA). For the background information also the concentration of PFAS in used AFFF-liquid was analyzed. Fire fighters' serum PFHxS and PFNA concentrations seemed to increase during the three training sessions although they were not the main PFAS in used AFFF. The statistical significance for the elevations was not able to test due to limited size of test group. In two training sessions, the average urinary excretions of 2-BAA exceeded the reference limit of the occupationally unexposed population. In the evaluations of the firefighting foams, non-fluorine based products were favored and the alcohol resistance properties of foams were recommended for consideration due to the increasing use of biofuels.

Keywords: 2-Butoxyacetic acid (2-BAA); Exposure; Firefighters; Firefighting foams; Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / chemistry
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / toxicity*
  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / urine
  • Ethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Ethylene Glycols / toxicity*
  • Ethylene Glycols / urine
  • Fire Extinguishing Systems
  • Firefighters*
  • Fires
  • Fluorocarbons / chemistry
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Fluorocarbons / urine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Solvents / toxicity
  • Surface-Active Agents / chemistry
  • Surface-Active Agents / toxicity


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Solvents
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • n-butoxyethanol