Exposure to Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), also known as firefighting foam, has been linked to several types of cancer and other health concerns. This includes thyroid disease and cancers of the testicles, kidneys, and bladder. Firefighters and others who work in areas where this foam is most commonly used are at the highest risk.
There are lawsuits underway against the manufacturers of AFFF, including almost 5,000 cases currently involved in multidistrict litigation in a South Carolina federal court.
What Health Concerns Are Linked to Aqueous Firefighting Foam?
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, AFFF contains harmful contaminants that can build up in the body because of repeated or long-term exposures. When these per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, PFOA, or PFOS) accumulate in the body in high amounts, research shows adverse health risks can occur, including:
- Thyroid disease
- Testicular cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder cancers
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What Makes AFFF So Dangerous?
Firefighters use foam to suppress and extinguish liquid-based fires. They could include fires involving gasoline, jet fuel, and other flammable liquids. Firefighters apply the foam through hoses, coating the flammable liquid. This keeps oxygen from reaching the fire, preventing it from spreading or continuing to burn. It is a very effective method of extinguishing these dangerous fires.
There are several types of firefighting foam, but only aqueous firefighting foam contains PFAS/PFOA/PFOS. Fluorine-free foam does not pose the same cancer risk as AFFF.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, firefighters and others may be exposed to these carcinogens if the foam is orally ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. When using AFFF, firefighters should shower as soon as possible after exposure, clean all PPE, and take other steps to protect themselves. They must also contain AFFF and contaminated water runoff to protect others.
Research and AFFF Cancer Risk
A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine compared the level of PFAS in the general population to that of more than 100 firefighters. The firefighters had levels up to three times higher than other men of the same age living in the same area.
A study of almost 150 Australian firefighters published in Environment International found that researchers could predict the PFAS/PFOA/PFOS levels in a firefighter’s blood sample based on their number of years served. As they put in more time on the job, their levels rose.
It is worth noting that most people have PFAS/PFOA/PFOS in their blood. It exists in many cleaning solutions, nonstick pans, paints, and more. However, the levels in civilians are generally much lower than those of exposed firefighters.
Who Is Liable for Cancer Caused by Aqueous Firefighting Foam?
Firefighting foam manufacturers have used PFAS/PFOA/PFOS in their products for decades. While there are new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules in place for manufacturing and importing them in the United States, these foams are still in use today at many airports and military bases. This means firefighters and others who work closely with them on these installations could still be at risk.
In addition, research dating back to at least the 1980s indicates possible health risks associated with PFAS/PFOA/PFOS. In the lawsuits against AFFF manufacturers, plaintiffs allege these companies did not do enough to warn firefighters of the dangers. They allowed many first responders and members of the military to be exposed to carcinogens without their knowledge or guidance on how to limit their risk.
What Should I Do If I Believe My Cancer Could Be Linked to AFFF Exposure?
If you worked as a firefighter—especially at an airport or military base—and developed cancer, you might have a case against the foam manufacturers. With a negotiated settlement or court award, you might receive compensation for your:
- Related medical bills
- Future medical needs
- Income losses if you miss time working
- Diminished earning ability if you were forced to retire or quit
- Associated costs, such as travel expenses for treatment
- Pain and suffering and other intangible losses
Families who lost a loved one to cancer might have a viable wrongful death case against the foam manufacturer.
Recovering Compensation in a Firefighting Foam Case
To learn if you might have a case, you should speak with an attorney representing plaintiffs in these lawsuits. They generally offer free initial consultations and can assess your case based on your diagnosis, your work history, and other details you provide.
Most of these law firms work based on contingency. You should not have to pay upfront fees to hire a firefighting foam cancer attorney who will handle your case.
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Multidistrict Litigation Is Pending Against Foam Manufacturers
According to a June 15, 2023, report from the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, there is ongoing multidistrict litigation (MDL) against foam manufacturers. The panel consolidated these lawsuits under U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in a South Carolina court. Additional plaintiffs continue to join the MDL.
MDL-2873, Re: Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation, has 4,793 active cases pending as of June 2023. MDLs allow the courts to combine many cases for pre-trial motions and discovery. This saves money and time for everyone involved.
Generally, the next step in an MDL is bellwether trials. Juries will hear several cases under the oversight of Judge Gergel. It often leads to global settlements or individual settlement offers. Cases that do not settle will return to their original jurisdiction for trial.
Discuss Your Options With the Van Law Team
Van Law represents victims and their families after a careless or reckless foam manufacturer failed to warn them of the risk of exposure. If you developed cancer and have a documented history of aqueous foam exposure, we want to discuss your options with you as soon as possible. Your time may be running out, so call today.
Contact us now to get started with your free initial consultation.
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