Exposure to Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), also known as firefighting foam, can immediately cause eye and skin irritation. Long-term, the risks are greater. Studies have linked AFFF to various types of cancer and thyroid disease. Manufacturers warn firefighters to use protective equipment to lessen the possibility of inhalation, eye irritation, or skin exposure.
A mass torts attorney can assess your symptoms and side effects and determine your legal options if you have any conditions linked to AFFF exposure. You may sue and join multidistrict litigation (MDL) already underway. This way, you could recover compensation and hold the manufacturers of this foam accountable.
Understanding the Possible Risks of Aqueous Firefighting Foam Exposure
While exposure to AFFF can cause some acute symptoms, there are significant long-term concerns about exposure. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, aqueous firefighting foam contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, PFOA, and PFOS) that studies have linked to several types of cancer.
Over time, these possible carcinogens accumulate in the body in high amounts. They could cause significant and even deadly diseases, including:
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Thyroid disease
These illnesses are the basis of most of the ongoing AFFF exposure lawsuits firefighters and others file against the foam manufacturers. These plaintiffs accuse the companies of making this foam without warning users of the possible cancer risk, despite research linking PFAS to certain cancers for decades.
How to Help Prevent Acute Exposure Symptoms
At least one manufacturer’s material data safety sheet claims AFFF is not a carcinogen. However, they warn firefighters to use the product with protective gear and prevent it from draining into waterways and water treatment facilities. To avoid acute exposure symptoms, they recommend the following:
- For ingestion: Avoid ingestion. Do not induce vomiting, and contact a doctor if swallowed.
- For eye irritation: Wear side-shield safety glasses during use. If exposed, rinse with water and call a doctor.
- To protect skin: Wear latex gloves during use. After use, rinse and wash with soap and water. Wash all contaminated clothing.
- For respiratory concerns: Use an organic vapor respirator if needed and remove to fresh air if inhaled.
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hat Is Aqueous Firefighting Foam?
Firefighting foam is highly effective at extinguishing liquid-based fires from jet fuel, gasoline, and similar sources. Many types of this foam exist, but only aqueous firefighting foam contains PFAS/PFOA/PFOS. While these foams were often the go-to option at airports and military bases, non-fluorine foam is also common today. There is no known PFAS/PFOA/PFOS exposure with this product.
When a firefighter applies AFFF, they might be exposed to dangerous chemicals orally, through inhalation, or through the skin. In addition, others could be exposed if the firefighters allow the runoff to contaminate water sources.
Several studies have examined the rate of these cancers in firefighters compared to the general public and uncovered shocking results. According to research in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, firefighters had PFAS levels up to three times higher than other men of the same age in the same vicinity. Another small study published in Environment International found clear evidence that a firefighter’s PFAS levels increased the longer they worked.
Who Bears Liability for My AFFF Exposure and Side Effects?
Today, there are new rules for manufacturing and importing firefighting foam in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, foam manufacturers produce AFFF and used PFAS/PFOA/PFOS for decades. This foam is still likely in use at multiple airports and military installations where firefighters continue to suffer exposure.
To hold the companies accountable, you will likely need documentation of your exposure and a linked diagnosis. This allows your attorney to gather evidence and present a compelling case on your behalf. The mass tort will work to link AFFF exposure to cancer and other serious health concerns to hold the product manufacturer legally liable.
Individually, most plaintiffs would not have the resources to develop a strong case against a huge corporation such as a firefighting foam manufacturer, which is often a multinational company. However, with multidistrict litigation, the plaintiffs work together to determine negligence and liability. This legal route includes navigating the discovery process and gathering evidence showing when the manufacturers knew about PFAS risks and any action they took at that time.
Multidistrict Litigation Is Underway in a U.S. District Court
The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a June 15, 2023, update on the ongoing multidistrict litigation (MDL) against firefighting foam manufacturers. As of this time, MDL 2873, also known as Re: Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation, had 4,793 active lawsuits.
The Panel consolidated these cases into MDL 2873 to help usher the large number of plaintiffs through the system more quickly. The MDL will handle pre-trial motions, the discovery process, and several bellwether trials. In general, settlements occur during this time. Otherwise, any remaining cases could go to trial in their original jurisdictions.
The Panel assigned the MDL to U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in a South Carolina U.S. District Court. As of June 2023, plaintiffs continue to sue and join MDL 2873. If you have been exposed to aqueous firefighting foam and have a cancer diagnosis or other related concerns, contact an attorney filing these cases as soon as possible.
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Connect With a Mass Tort Attorney About Your AFFF Exposure Today
Van Law provides free case consultations for firefighters and others who experience symptoms and side effects possibly related to aqueous firefighting foam exposure. Many of the lawsuits we file focus on the diagnosis of related cancers after years of foam use or a clear link to contaminated waterways. However, we will assess your options based on your unique circumstances.
Contact us now to discuss your case with one of our team members. We work on all mass tort lawsuits with no upfront costs for the client. All of our consultations are free, so don’t wait. Contact the legal team at Van Law Firm today.
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