Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
Gary McDowall and Thierry Bluteau: New Fluorosurfactants are not Drop-in Replacements
Published:  10 November, 2009

Pure C6 fluorotelomer: improvement or illusion?

Since 3M’s demise, alternative products to PFOS, known as fluorotelomers, have been used extensively by fire fighting foams manufacturers and have often been presented as the very best and safe option. In the last 9 years, the independent scientific literature has included a number of studies which have helped drive change leading ultimately to a voluntary ban on PFOA and to the progressive use of ‘pure’ C6 fluorotelomers. Although the latest publications show evidence of persistence and bio-accumulation for the degradation products of these materials, they are still being put forward as the safest option combining both efficiency and benign environmental impact.

The debate still rages since these products give the 6:2 fluorotelomer sulphonate (H-PFOS) as a degradation product, which has been measured at high level in breast milk and also occurs at the bottom of the food chain. Bio-Ex has been attempting to use these pure C6 products as straight replacements for the previously obtainable ‘C6/C8’ blend in their range of AFFF concentrates. We have found that pure C6 fluorotelomer does not offer the efficiency previously obtained using the old technology. In fact, to achieve reasonable performance, we have had to increase the C6 fluorotelomer content by up to 3 times compared to the C6/C8 blend in order to match the old efficiency. This brings the performance of pure C6 products into question. Is the pure C6 fluorotelomer the very best and most reliable option for guaranteeing optimum performance for the industry?

About the speakers

Gary McDowall undertook mechanical engineering studies at Hugh Baird College and has a Diploma in Management Studies from St Helens Techical College. He joined the John Kerr fire fighting chemical
company based in Liverpool in 1987 before forming his own company ABC MacIntosh in 1999. Gary has 22 years experience in the development and manufacturing of both fire fighting foams and dry powders.

He was responsible for the transfer of the Monnex business from ICI to Croda Kerr in 1992 and has since developed a range of high performance chemical products for hand-held portable extinguishers and fire systems. For the past 10 years Gary has focused his company’s interest on the development of fluoro-free foams, which he believes is the best option for the sustainable use of foam both for the environment and for the Fire Protection industry in the future.

Thierry Bluteau completed his training as a biochemist and an organic chemist at the University of Paris South. He has a 5 years as a pharmacological chemist in R&D, and 20 years experience in the use of surfactants and the  conception of fire fighting chemicals. Thierry has been Managing Director of Bio-Ex for over 10 years and is a pioneer in the field
of fluoro-free foams (FFF), leading the way to eco-friendly foam concept.