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Sustainable SoyFoam is safety for firefighters, profits for farmers
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

CHATSWORTH, Ga. – Firefighters everywhere are all too aware of the dangers of traditional firefighting foam. These foams contain risky polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
Now, soybean advocates are encouraging fire crews to replace their traditional firefighting foam with a more environmentally friendly soy-based alternative. The product is called SoyFoam.
PFAS, more commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” are extremely effective at cooling and suppressing certain types of fires. However, there is a growing concern about the pollution that PFAS chemicals are responsible for as well as the cancer-causing chemicals that come with traditional firefighting foam.
SoyFoam TF 1122 (its proper name) has been developed by Cross Plains Solutions of Georgia, in partnership with the United Soybean Board. The new foam is 100 percent free of intentionally added PFAS, contains no fluorines and is a smothering agent capable of extinguishing Class A (ordinary combustibles) and Class B (flammable liquids) fires.
This partnership brings significant advantages to both firefighters and farmers. Firefighters gain a safer product, while farmers discover a new market for their soybean meal.
“As a farmer and former volunteer firefighter for 23 years, the various applications of SoyFoam to extinguish and control fires could protect more than one million firefighters in the U.S. alone,” said Steve Reinhard, Ohio farmer and chair of the United Soybean Board. “One of our main priorities on behalf of the half-million U.S. soybean farmers is to create bio-based alternatives safer for people and the environment.”
SoyFoam seamlessly integrates with current foam nozzles, inductors, and pump pressures, requiring no adjustments to a fire department’s existing standard operating procedures.
The foam is made with soy flour (the meal component of the soybean), which differs from many other soy-based products like biofuels, adhesives, coatings, lubricants and plastics, which primarily use soybean oil. It’s also certified ready biodegradable by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. It is certified as 84 percent bio-based and 90 percent natural through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bio-Preferred program.
Jeff King, assistant fire chief at the Corydon (Ky.) Volunteer Fire Department, got to experience the use of SoyFoam recently when dowsing various fires during demonstration of the product.
“The ability to knock down a fire is of extreme importance, especially with limited manpower that we have in the rural sector,” said King, also a third-generation producer who raises soybeans and white corn. “At times we’re out here (in the rural areas) with limited water resources, unlike those in the city. We carry our own water to a fire. With SoyFoam, it makes the water that we do have go that much further.”
Cross Plains Solutions estimates the current applications of SoyFoam have the potential to use the protein from 12 million bushels of soybeans, and new uses for the product, beyond firefighting applications, are on the horizon.
“Through the soy checkoff and the U.S. Soybean Board, the U.S. soybean farmer have supported much of the extensive testing for this soy foam,” Reinhard said. “It’s a safer firefighting foam and it’s PFAS-free. It’s a big win for our soybean farmers and our firefighters, especially those rural firefighters who are farmers themselves.
“We continue to crush more soybeans and produce more meal, which is a high-quality feed product for our livestock sector, but then we have it available for other uses as well. Using this soy flour for this soy firefighter foam is just another great opportunity that we have to increase the value of the U.S. soybean farmers’ dollar. It’s putting more money back in their pockets from the checkoff that they pay.
“We continue to work on projects (like) these all the time and we continue to look at how we can find new streams for different products, whether it be adhesives, coatings, lubricants, plastics – all these use soybean oil and all this drives the demand for the meal.”
Foam alternatives are being sought because the U.S. EPA reports PFAS are being found in water, air, fish and soil across the nation and the globe. Exposure is linked to several adverse health effects, including certain cancers, thyroid dysfunction, changes in cholesterol and small reductions in birth weight.
“We are proud to partner with U.S. Soy to launch this breakthrough firefighting foam for use by fire departments across the nation,” said Cross Plains Solutions’ managing partner Alan Snipes. “Our manufacturing plant in Georgia is ready to produce SoyFoam now, so fire departmentw can ask their suppliers to offer it. It’s a safer product than anything that’s out on the market right now. And, right now, based on what the market is, we see that we’re comparable in price and in some cases even cheaper and conventional firefighting foams.
“Mitigating forever chemicals through soy-based products can create real impact, not only for the safety of our first responders but to maintain the integrity of our local communities’ soil health, air quality and drinking water.”
Premier Polymers in Dalton, Ga., will be manufacturing SoyFoam.
6/11/2024