Firefighter Foam - Consumer Justice Foundation

Firefighter Foam

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Firefighters, U.S. military servicemembers, airport workers and others exposed to dangerous chemicals in firefighter foams or aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) solutions may face an increased risk of thyroid disease and testicular, kidney and bladder cancers caused by the accumulation of the toxic chemicals in the body.

Firefighting foam cancer lawsuits are being investigated by attorneys nationwide due to the use of potentially toxic aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) solutions. Those at the greatest risk for cancer from firefighting foam are firefighters with the U.S. military and firefighters assigned to airports that routinely used AFFF. The U.S. Navy and other branches of the military used the foam extensively for roughly 50 years, including for emergency events, testing and training exercises, and up until 2018, commercial airports were required to use the foam in compliance with U.S. Navy guidelines. The toxic chemicals in firefighter foam can also contaminate well water and drinking water supplies, which means communities where firefighting foam was used by the local fire department during training or fire suppression and those near U.S. military bases may also be at risk for cancer or other serious side effects. If you or a loved one sustained long-term occupational exposure to firefighter foam and subsequently developed cancer, you may qualify for compensation through a firefighter foam lawsuit. Contact our consumer advocates at Consumer Justice Foundation today to learn more about pursuing a legal claim for injuries from firefighting foam.

Firefighter Foam Exposure and Adverse Effect Warnings

May 2012 – The EPA identifies PFOS and PFOA as “emerging contaminants,” which are chemicals characterized by a “perceived, potential or real threat to human health or the environment or by a lack of published health standards.”

October 2015 – The ATSDR reports that “People exposed to high levels [of PFAS] may have increased risk of kidney cancer or testicular cancer.”

January 2016 – The American Cancer Society reports that “Studies in lab animals have found exposure to PFOA increases the risk of certain tumors of the liver, testicles, mammary glands (breasts), and pancreas.”

2018 – A federal inquiry reveals that PFAS are more dangerous than previously reported.

December 2018 – The EPA states that “Both [PFOA and PFOS] chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.”

February 2019 – The EPA issues drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS, recommending an exposure limit of 70 parts per trillion level of the chemicals in drinking water.

July 2019 – The Department of Defense creates a task force to determine the extent of PFAS contamination on U.S. military bases and the potential health risks to military personnel and families caused by harmful chemicals used in firefighting foam. The task force also seeks to mitigate and eliminate the use of AFFF, and to clean up sites with possible PFAS contamination.

January 2020 – The ATSDR publishes a report on the potential health effects of PFAS exposure, indicating that it can: “interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol levels, affect the immune system and increase the risk of some cancers.”

March 2020 – The DoD’s PFAS task force issues a progress report in which it indicates that “the consolidated inventory of DoD and National Guard installations where the Department is performing an assessment of PFAS use or potential release has increased from 401 to 651 as of the end of FY 2019.”

Studies Linking Firefighter Foam to Cancer, Other Side Effects

May 2009 – A study published in the journal Human Reproduction suggests that “PFOA and PFOS exposure at plasma levels seen in the general population may reduce fecundity,” or the ability to produce offspring in humans.

May 2010Research from the UK indicates that “Higher concentrations of serum PFOA and PFOS are associated with current thyroid disease in the U.S. general adult population.”

July 2012 – The journal Environmental Research publishes a study suggesting that “continued human exposure to even relatively low concentrations of PFOA in drinking water results in elevated body burdens that may increase the risk of health effects.”

November 2012 – A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that there is evidence of “positive exposure-response trends for malignant and nonmalignant renal disease” among workers exposed to PFOA at a DuPont chemical plant in West Virginia.

March 2013 – Another analysis of the relationship between PFOA exposure and cancer among residents living near the DuPont Teflon-manufacturing plant in West Virginia finds that “higher PFOA serum levels may be associated with testicular, kidney, prostate, and ovarian cancers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

May 2015 – PFOA exposure among workers is positively linked to ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis in a study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Nov-Dec 2019 – Researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia assess the health outcomes of Mid-Ohio Valley residents who were exposed to PFOA in drinking water while living near a chemical plant. They find that “PFOA exposure was associated with kidney and testicular cancer in this population.”

February 2020 – The U.S. Fire Administration issues a report titled “The hidden dangers in firefighting foam,” warning that “long-term exposure to PFAS/PFOA/PFOS, in high concentrations, causes a buildup in the body [which] may have negative health effects like a risk of thyroid disease and testicular, kidney and bladder cancers.”

Why We Think Manufacturers of Firefighter Foam Should Be Held Liable

For years, companies like 3M, Chemguard, Chemours, National Foam, Tyco Fire Products, United Technologies Corp., the Buckeye Fire Protection Co., Angus Fire and The Ansul Co. manufactured firefighting foam and sold it to the U.S. military and civilians for use at airports and other sites. A growing number of firefighter foam lawsuits filed in state and federal courts across the country accuse these companies of allegedly:

  • Knowing about the potential for the chemicals in AFFF to adversely affect human health and the environment
  • Knowing that PFAS are persistent and harmful when released into the environment
  • Deceiving fire departments and government agencies about the toxic nature of their products
  • Failing to warn users that exposure to the chemicals in firefighting foam could lead to various cancers
  • Continuing to manufacture, market and sell their firefighter foam products despite these risks

Claims have also been brought against the U.S. government for instructing the military and commercial airports to use AFFF. The firefighting foam lawsuits seek damages for personal injury, the need for medical monitoring, property damage and other economic losses related to the presence of PFAS chemicals in the foam products, including the cost of remediation in areas affected by AFFF contamination.

What should you do? If you have been diagnosed with cancer or another side effect from firefighter foam and exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss filing a firefighter foam lawsuit.

Exposure to harmful PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam has allegedly adversely affected firefighters and current and former members of the U.S. military and their loved ones, as well as the communities surrounding U.S. military bases and other sites where AFFF was used. Unfortunately, the DoD has been unable to find a fluorine-free foam solution that is effective as AFFF and does not contain PFAS or pose a risk to human health. And while PFOA and PFOS are no longer made in the United States, they are still made in other countries and could potentially still affect consumers in the U.S. in the form of AFFF. If you have been diagnosed with testicular cancer, bladder cancer or another type of cancer and you believe allegedly toxic firefighting foam to be the cause, don’t wait to contact an attorney. You may have grounds to file a firefighter foam lawsuit against the foam manufacturer, in order to pursue the financial compensation you deserve for your injuries.

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