Are you aware that the very foam firefighters use to save lives might be putting their own lives at risk? The alarming issue of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) and its potential link to cancer has taken center stage in recent years.
You might not realize that AFFF, hailed as a lifesaving tool, contains chemicals that could pose health risks. Firefighters, heroes in uniform, are often exposed to these chemicals during their duty, raising significant concerns about their well-being.
In this article, we aim to shed light on these AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits, which seek justice for cancer victims.
AFFF and Its Use
AFFF has long been a trusted tool in the firefighting arsenal. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to rapidly smother fires, particularly those involving flammable liquids like jet fuel or gasoline. When sprayed onto a fire, AFFF creates a thin film on the surface, preventing the fire from reigniting. This quality has made it indispensable for fire departments, airports, and military installations.
However, the story takes a different turn when considering the composition of AFFF. It contains a group of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which give it its fire-extinguishing properties. These PFAS compounds have raised concerns due to their potential health and environmental risks.
The Cancer Risk Associated with AFFF
Studies have shown that PFAS chemicals can accumulate in the bodies of those regularly exposed to them. These persistent chemicals have been linked to various health problems, including cancer.
These findings have prompted lawsuits as firefighters seek justice for the illnesses they believe were caused by their occupation.
The primary culprits behind the cancer risk associated with AFFF are the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found within the foam. PFAS chemicals, including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are known for their environmental persistence and bioaccumulative properties. These characteristics make them particularly insidious when they enter the human body.
However, due to the health risks seen, a lot of criticism has been made against its wide application. As per Colorado Newsline, the extensive usage of PFAS by the US government has long been a source of worry. These chemicals don’t degrade naturally and yet are effective in countering fire. Additionally, not only are these used by firefighters, but they are also used in numerous items that need to withstand heat exceptionally well.
As a result, they are now widely used in domestic and industrial applications like nonstick cookware. Therefore, the Department of Defense has decided to cease buying PFAS-containing foam for firefighting and plans to phase it out completely in 2024. It came after receiving years of criticism from American legislators and environmentalists.
The Growing Tide of Lawsuits
Firefighters and their families have initiated legal actions against manufacturers of AFFF products. They allege that they were not adequately warned about the potential health hazards associated with these firefighting foams.
In a recent AFFF lawsuit update, it’s become evident that these legal battles are gaining traction. Plaintiffs argue that manufacturers should have provided clearer information about the risks of PFAS, the harmful chemicals in AFFF. As per other updates, many believe this lack of transparency has dire consequences for their health.
According to TorHoerman Law, 4,793 cases have been submitted in the AFFF litigation as of June 16. These include a mix of personal injury cases and municipal water pollution lawsuits. It further suggests that AFFF makers may be prepared to make tremendous efforts to prevent a federal trial. Their agreement will benefit localities where water poisoning has occurred, and for cases handled by the personal injury MDL, this represents good news.
These lawsuits are not limited to a single region or jurisdiction; they have taken root across the United States and beyond its borders. The common thread among them is the quest for accountability and compensation for those who have suffered from illnesses linked to AFFF exposure.
The Plaintiffs: Cancer Victims and Their Stories
Each plaintiff has a unique journey but shares a common thread. They believe their illnesses, like testicular, kidney, or bladder cancer, directly result from their exposure to AFFF during their service or occupation. Their stories are a powerful testament to the sacrifices made by firefighters in their line of duty.
For instance, according to PHW, firefighter Ben Brickhouse relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, in 2003. A regular medical in 2020 changed his plans to continue working for 20 years and retire at age 61. His prostatic-specific antigen, or PSA, level was off the charts. It is frequently an indication of prostate cancer. Brickhouse decided to seek his prostate excised after further tests revealed the presence of the illness.
However, his PSA level never returned to zero after the operation, but started to climb. The cancer has metastasized to his lymph nodes. His career as a firefighter would end after three sessions of radiation therapy and a lupron hormone treatment.
These plaintiffs are not just seeking compensation; they are seeking justice. They want answers, accountability, and assurance that future firefighters and first responders will not face similar risks.
Legal Strategies and Challenges
One key challenge is establishing a direct link between AFFF exposure and cancer development. While scientific studies suggest a correlation, proving causation can be formidable. Plaintiffs must present compelling evidence to convince the courts that AFFF exposure was a substantial factor in their cancer diagnosis.
Additionally, determining liability is a multi-faceted endeavor. Lawsuits often target not only the manufacturers of AFFF but also entities responsible for its use and distribution. Establishing who bears what degree of responsibility can be a protracted legal battle.
Regulatory Actions and Industry Response
Government regulators have started to take notice. Even some countries and states impose stricter regulations on using AFFF or ban certain types altogether. These regulations aim to reduce the environmental and health impacts of PFAS chemicals found in AFFF.
Additionally, according to Toxic-Free Future, a new regulation was established following years of PFAS poisoning of water sources for countless Americans. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) published an updated military specification or “mil-spec” on January 12th, 23, for acquiring and utilizing PFAS-free firefighting foam.
Moreover, airports are impacted by this new criterion as well. By October 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which Congress mandated, must permit airports to utilize fluorine-free foams. Health activists applaud this development but want accountability and standards regarding new foams’ safety.
Advocacy and Awareness
Advocacy groups are working tirelessly to raise awareness about the potential health risks of AFFF. They aim to push for changes in firefighting practices and regulations. They organize events, share personal stories, and collaborate with lawmakers to drive the issue into the public spotlight.
One of their primary goals is to ensure firefighters are informed about the potential dangers of AFFF and equipped with safer alternatives. Advocates also push for better protections for firefighters, including improved gear and equipment to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.
Justice Pursuit Sparks a Powerful Movement
A powerful movement has emerged to pursue justice for cancer victims affected by AFFF. Those impacted by AFFF exposure strive for accountability and change through lawsuits, advocacy, and increased awareness. The legal battles have revealed the urgent need to balance the essential role of AFFF in firefighting. It comes with the safety of those who use it and the environment.