Annegret Biegel-Engler: Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals in the environment

Published:  10 November, 2009

Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are widely used in fire fighting foams. PFCs are synthetic compounds which can be degraded or mineralized hardly at all. Once they are dispersed within the environment, these chemicals persist for a very long time. PFCs have been found ubiquitously in the environment, e.g., in arctic animals, in the deep sea, in rivers, and drinking water. The persistence in human blood and breast milk after uptake via nutrition, in contaminated drinking water or air, is of especially high concern.

The environmental dispersion of PFCs depends on their physico-chemical properties.Those chemicals which are adsorbed by organic matter will become enriched in sewage sludge or soil.Water-soluble PFCs, however, will enter surface water and become dispersed in the oceans, eventually being transported via water currents to remote areas.

Those PFCs with high soil mobility will enter groundwater easily or be washed out into surface water, possibly contaminating drinking water. The German Federal Environment Agency therefore requires that AFFF and other fire fighting foams containing PFCs only be used when absolutely necessary.Furthermore, industry is being strongly encouraged to develop PFC-free fire fighting foams as soon as possible.

About the speaker

Dr. Annegret Biegel studied biochemistry at the Martin-Luther Univerisity of Halle-Wittenberg in Halle, Germany, first as an undergraduate (1996-2202) and then as a doctoral student (2002-2006) gaining her PhD in 2006. Annegret was then employed as a Scientific Officer responsible for the biological remediation of contaminated sites at the Brandenburg University of Technology in Cottbus. In 2008 she joined the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) in Dessau as a Scientific Officer in the division charged with chemical and biological safety.

  • Operation Florian

Sign up: eMagazine & eNewsletter

The latest issues in your inbox.

Company Profiles

Renka´s Fire Engine No. 1

Firefighting, fast, safe, everywhere. Michael Renka GmbH, based in Germany, is a manufacturer of firefighting vehicles, pumps and rescue equipment.

Waterax - We move water

Trusted by wildland firefighters around the world, WATERAX sets the industry standard by developing innovative, portable fire pumps and water-handling equipment designed to withstand demanding applications and rugged environments.

Big Water Flow for Industrial and Municipal Firefighting Applications

Protecting the lives of the public and firefighters while limiting the structural damage caused in large scale fires is our primary mission

We are committed to improving lives and doing business in the right way

We have a unique mix of capability and culture that we refer to as 3M Science and we strive to develop products that improve people’s daily lives in a multitude of ways.

HazSim - Bringing situational HazMat training to life

HazSim, LLC provides innovative simulation training to ensure your team works safely and effectively. HazSim Pro simulation equipment is in use by hundreds of fire departments, training schools, industrial fire teams, and private trainers across the US, Canada and further afield as well as the US Army.

The ultimate in innovation, quality and service

For 60 years Lehavot has been delivering the world’s most advanced fire detection and suppression automatic systems

Advancing rescue technology

The specialist supplier of quality PPE and Rescue Equipment to Emergency Services.

Revolutionizing fire fighting foam technology

The one-stop resource for fire fighting foam concentrates and custom-designed foam suppression systems hardware.

Trust the best, let us be your foam solution

AUXQUIMIA is a Spanish company whose main activity is the design, manufacture and commercialization of firefighting foam concentrates.

Williams Fire & Hazard Control offers a full line of specialized fire response equipment for oil and gas platforms

From storage tanks and pipeline emergencies to offshore platforms and vessels at sea, Williams' response personnel and specialized equipment quickly address adverse fire emergencies.

The leader in truck-mounted hydraulic platforms

Our mission is to provide the best and the safest solution to professionals that work at height.

If you want quality, you want Zico

Since its inception Ziamatic Corp has provided the men and women of the fire service with products designed to make their jobs safer and easier.

The independent alternative

Dafo Fomtec AB is a privately owned company with head office in Stockholm Sweden and manufacturing in Helsingborg in the south of Sweden.