Firefighter Foam Under the Spotlight for its Cancer Causing Chemicals
Photo by Matt Chesin
U.S. firefighters, like many of their counterparts all around the world, have used a type of firefighting foam which has been a huge success in fighting fires, especially those caused by petrochemical compounds. Only recently, it has been discovered that the foam’s chemical makeup has been responsible for causing cancers in the very people who have been exposed to the foam while fighting fires.
The culprit is the group of chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS). These substances are very effective in what they do. They are an extremely stable group of compounds that remain unaffected when in contact with the sorts of materials that could be on fire. Unfortunately, this very stability appears to be part of the reason why these compounds are a serious health risk. When absorbed into the human body, usually breathed in by firefighters when using an aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), they do not break down chemically. In fact, they accumulate and are now known to be sufficiently toxic to cause a range of cancers. Like many cancers, the longer a firefighter has been exposed to PFAS chemicals from the foam they have used in firefighting the higher the chance they will develop cancer.
AFFF type foam material has been used for firefighting for decades. This means that there could be potentially thousands of firefighters or retired firefighters who have developed or will develop cancer as a result of exposure to PFAS chemicals.
It now seems likely that foam manufacturers may have known about the potential carcinogenic nature of PFAS chemicals since they were introduced into their foam products. Some of their materials have been manufactured since the 1940s. If the allegations about prior knowledge about the health dangers of PFAS can be substantiated in court, then there is potential for firefighter victims to sue the manufacturers for negligence with the help of a firefighting foam attorney.
Where has AFFF foam been used and where else has PFAS caused contamination?
AFFF foam, which contains PFAS chemicals, has been used in many different locations, but in particular has been a popular choice for fighting fires at airports, major industrial locations, military centers and local fire depots. It works by smothering whatever is on fire and preventing oxygen from getting to the surface. Because firefighting foam can persist in a fire location for many years after a fire, there has also been a very real risk that PFAS chemicals can get into ground water sources and contaminate drinking water. That puts the number of potential cancer victims in a much wider framework, including many people who have had no direct link with the chemicals through their job.
It may be that ultimately, far more people will be seeking compensation from PFAS and AFFF manufacturers than first realized when the reports about firefighting foam first came out. PFAS chemicals are in fact, not just found in firefighting foam, but are an ingredient in many common consumer goods, the disposal of which may lead to PFAS contamination of the environment and subsequently into human bodies through ingestion.
Cancers caused by PFAS contaminants
This is a list of some of the more common cancers alleged to have been caused by PFAS:
- bladder cancer;
- kidney cancer;
- ovarian cancer;
- pancreatic cancer;
- prostate cancer;
- testicular cancer;
- thyroid cancer.
Active lawsuits concerning cancers alleged to have been caused by PFAS
There are already dozens of active lawsuits that have targeted AFFF manufacturers such as Dupont, Chemours, Corteva Inc., Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, 3M,National Fpoam, Tyco and Dynax. The lawsuits have been filed by individual firefighters who have discovered that their cancer has probably been caused by exposure to PFAS in firefighting foam as well as by municipalities.
If you, or a loved one, suspect that you have developed a serious illness such as cancer from long exposure to AFFF type foams or from any other source of PFAS, you may have grounds to claim compensation. Call the Diaz Law Firm in Jackson to discuss your legal options against the manufacturers of PFAS containing contaminants. You can reach the Diaz Law Firm office at 601-607-3456.