Skip to main content

Developed and maintained
by the NFCC


Polluting materials

Hazard Knowledge

This hazard should be read in conjunction with Foundation for environmental protection - Pollutant categories

Polluting materials may affect the environment during or following incidents. Fire and rescue service actions may result in or increase pollution, for example, if fires are extinguished without applying appropriate control measures to contain fire water or firefighting foam run-off.

There may be sites in a fire and rescue service area where polluting materials are known to be stored, or are likely to be found.

The following table shows some types of incidents and activities, with examples of polluting materials commonly associated with them:

Type of incident or activity

Examples of polluting materials

Road traffic collisions

Oils, fuel, coolants, battery vapours or wash water

Spillages of non-hazardous materials

Organic matter, such as:

  • Food or drink
  • Diesel exhaust fluid, often referred to as AdBlue
  • Organic liquid fertiliser

Spillages of hazardous materials

Corrosive, toxic, or flammable materials

Casualty care

Clinical waste, disposable gloves, medical face masks or dressings


Fire water run-off, smoke plumes, hazardous materials or foam (included in Polluting materials: Fire-related incidents)

Incidents involving contaminating materials

Biological, chemical or radioactive materials

Working on, in or near water

Biological hazards, such as infectious diseases or sewage

Biodiversity, such as invasive non-native species

Any incident may result in contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE) or operational equipment. There is no defence under environmental regulations if pollution of the environment is caused by decontamination of PPE, equipment or body bags.

People can be exposed to polluting materials through inhalation, absorption, ingestion or injection. For more information refer to Operations – Infectious diseases.