Oftentimes, when we find ourselves confronted with a daunting task, we have a tendency to “fight fire with fire,” meaning that we attempt to defeat one bad thing by using another bad thing. In the fields of personal injury and product liability, one shining example of this is the use of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) when fighting fires (no pun intended).
The substance has been linked to numerous ailments including ulcerative colitis, cysts, and various forms of cancer. Both civilian and military firefighters have been exposed to the harmful effects of AFFF foam for decades, and are just now starting to come forward. Potential claimants should feel confident knowing that the product liability attorneys from Van Law Firm are currently accepting AFFF cases in order to hold manufacturers accountable for the harm they’ve caused to some of our nation’s most essential workers.
What Is AFFF Foam and Why is it Dangerous?
AFFF foam is a concentrate mixed with water that is sprayed by fire personnel over liquid fuel fires. It works by effectively “blanketing” the flames, suffocating the flow of oxygen and causing the blaze to eventually die down. The substance was developed in the 1960s, and was subsequently adopted by the Department of Defense for use on military bases in the 70s, which significantly increased its circulation.
The reason behind the foam’s toxicity has to do with what are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These are nasty, brutal chemicals that are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their inability to naturally decompose. This is a major problem in terms of disposal, as most of the time after a large fire is extinguished, the surrounding soil and water are significantly contaminated. AFFF manufacturers face claims not only from injured firefighters, but also from civilians who were exposed to PFAS from pollution and runoff.
Recent investigations have revealed a multitude of studies from both the Navy and the Air Force that were published all throughout the 70s and 80s documenting the carcinogenic effects of AFFF on fish and animals. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), one of world’s leading authorities on carcinogenic substances, has classified PFAS as group 2B carcinogens, which means that they are “possibly” carcinogenic to humans based on animal studies and case reviews. It wasn’t until just recently, however, that manufacturers began to make changes; unfortunately, thousands of workers have already been exposed for years.
What Are the Effects of AFFF Exposure?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the IARC have linked AFFF exposure to the following health conditions:
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Ulcerative colitis
- Increased cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Birth defects and preeclampsia for women who are pregnant
- Thyroid conditions
Some of these conditions may arise immediately, however a large number of cancers and cysts take prolonged time and exposure to develop. If you work as a firefighter in a municipal or military capacity and are experiencing pain or discomfort in any of the areas mentioned above, it is important that you seek both medical help and legal representation so that any potential evidence is preserved while you receive treatment.
Have Any Regulations Been Put in Place?
No agency or entity has officially banned or recalled products that contain PFAS, including AFFF foam. However, by the early 2000s manufacturers began to feel pressure from third parties urging them to make changes. A lot of companies voluntarily downscaled PFAS production, and in 2006 the EPA officially started a program to reduce the amount of PFAS in products by 100 percent by 2015. As of January 2021, they have since added new criteria that mandates any new PFAS must be approved by the agency before they are manufactured, processed, or imported.
In recent years, numerous AFFF and PFAS manufacturers have launched their own programs to aid in the cleanup, collection, and proper disposal of old products that are believed to be carcinogenic. All in all, these recent public and private mandates have been positive steps forward, but, as mentioned above, countless workers have already been subjected to terrible harm from these substances.
Connect With Experienced AFFF Attorneys
If you or a loved one has worked with AFFF foam in the past and is now experiencing complications such as cancer, consider contacting the trusted team of product liability and AFFF injury attorneys from Van Law Firm. We can help firefighters recover compensation for medical costs, lost income, and even loss of enjoyment and pain and suffering. Call our office nearest you today for a free case evaluation and consultation.