Foams with perfluorinated chemicals work well in petroleum fires, such as at airports, but are known toxins that can harm firefighter health

COURTESY: PORT OF PORTLAND - Firefighters use special foam to douse a fire at Portland International AIrport in a training exercise. Washington lawmakers have agreed to ban firefighting foam that contains harmful chemicals.

Perfluorinated chemicals are used in firefighting foam to help contain petroleum fires. Firefighters have sprayed the foam around Washington's military airstrips and fire-training facilities.

State lawmakers want Washington to be the first in the nation to ban perfluorinated chemicals in firefighting foam. (Other states, like New York and Vermont, already regulate the chemicals.)

"When these firefighting foams are sprayed out into the environment, they contaminate drinking water and the soils around the drinking water," said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, with Toxic-Free Future.

In animals, the chemicals have been linked to poor liver function and changes in reproductive hormones. Scientists are less certain about how the chemicals affect people, but it might cause certain cancers, thyroid problems and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

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