Firefighting foam has been on the market for decades because it is one of the most effective products for extinguishing jet fuel and petroleum fires. However, it may also cause testicular, kidney, and pancreatic cancer in firefighters who are exposed to the foam regularly.
Additionally, Aqueous Film Forming Foam (firefighting foam, AFFF) is also contaminating our water supply after it’s been discharged, and the residual materials can enter into your water system by seeping into the drain systems and/or the environment.
What is Firefighting Foam?
Its official name is aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), and its job is to make a blanket that cuts off the oxygen that fuel needs to burn. It helps smother the fire by using chemicals named Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAs), and in some cases, these chemicals are still used today.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the American Cancer Society have all classified certain PFA’s as ’emerging contaminants.’ This means that they may be dangerous to human health.
What Cancers Have Been Associated With PFA’s?
The chemicals used in firefighting foam are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because the bonds of fluorine and carbon are strong and extremely difficult to break down in the environment and in your body.
This means that the carcinogens in the firefighting foam stay in your body for an extensive period.
The cancers that are associated with PFA’s include:
- Testicular Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
Because the PFA chemicals in firefighting foam are extremely durable, it doesn’t break down over time and could remain in your body for years.
High-risk occupations that have exposure to PFA’s include airport, and military firefighters are at very high risk.
The U.S. Navy and other military branches have used firefighting foam since the 1960’s even in training and other non-critical missions. Today, the military is slowing phasing out the use of certain types of firefighting foams.
What Do We Know About the Firefighting Foam Lawsuits?
Recently, a panel of judges determined that most of the firefighting foam lawsuits filed in the federal court system should be consolidated before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Following oral arguments presented to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, a transfer order was issued that called for 75 of the claims that were pending in 8 different courts to all be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina under Judge Richard M. Gergel.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation did refuse to add nine cases filed against 3M because those cases were significantly different from the firefighting foam lawsuits in that the allegations involved chemicals perfluorobutane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid which were discharged directly into different water sources and into the air by factories.
Attorneys have indicted that hundreds, maybe thousands of additional people may join the firefighting foam class actions or file individual lawsuits because of the health risks.
3M Company, Chemguard, Inc, and Tyco Fire Products, are all facing dozens of product liability lawsuits filed by individuals and municipalities across the United States.
All of these lawsuits allege similar allegations that the companies knew or should have known about the risks involved in being exposed to firefighting foam that contains perfluorinated compounds.
What About Firefighting Foam Contaminating the Water?
Firefighting foam enters our environment once it is discharged and released during use and because of spills or leaks which may occur in the firefighting foam storage locations.
The firefighting foam may contaminate the soil, surface water, and groundwater. Residual materials may enter drain systems and discharge to remote locations.
To date, at least two different sites have already had their water contaminated., including Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress, in Chesapeake, Virginia, and Navel Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey.
PFA’s were found to be in the drinking water in Fentress, and in the groundwater, but not the drinking water at Colts Neck. However, firefighting foam was used at 664 sites where crash training and fire training exercises are conducted throughout the United States.
This could potentially contaminate the ground and drinking water that supplies hundreds of military bases and surrounding communities.
What Does the Exposure Mean?
Exposure to some of the chemicals in firefighting foam has been linked to the risk of:
- Liver toxicity
- Neonatal death
- Immune system problems
- Endocrine system issues
- Prostate cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
How Do I Know If I Have a Firefighting Foam Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one was contaminated with firefighting foam and now have been diagnosed with cancer, you should contact the St. Louis attorneys at Walton Telken Injury Attorneys and speak with one of our product liability attorneys. Our experienced attorneys can evaluate your individual case and advise you as what your next legal steps should be. You may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries.