Aqueous film-forming foam (“AFFF”) is used to extinguish fires and is commonly referred to as firefighting foam. It was recently discovered that prolonged use or exposure to certain chemicals in AFFF firefighting foam can cause cancer. Anyone who was regularly exposed to firefighting foam and subsequently diagnosed with kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, or testicular cancer, may be able to file an AFFF foam cancer lawsuit and get financial compensation.
All of the AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits in federal courts have been consolidated together into a “class action” MDL in the District of South Carolina. As of August 2022, there are over 2,500 plaintiffs with firefighting foam cancer lawsuits pending in the AFFF MDL. After bellwether test trials, the AFFF class action MDL will hopefully end in a global settlement.
AFFF Foam Cancer
AFFF (“aqueous film-forming foam”) is a sprayable type of foam that is specifically designed to extinguish high-intensity fires fueled by accelerants such as gasoline. The active chemicals in AFFF firefighting foam belong to a family of chemicals known as PFAS (poly-fluoroalkyl substances).
PFAS are a unique group of chemicals that are highly resistant to extreme heat and are
not broken down by oil or water. Unfortunately, the indestructible nature of PFAS means
that they do not biodegrade or break down in the environment. PFAS have a tendency to
move through soil and end up contaminating groundwater and rivers. For this reason,
PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals.”
Over the last decade, an emerging body of scientific research has established that chronic exposure to PFAS in firefighting foam can cause certain types of cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency published a health advisory in 2016 noting that animal studies showed that prolonged exposure to PFAS resulted in kidney and testicular cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conducted several studies which found that human exposure to PFAS results in a significantly increased rate of kidney, prostate, and testicular cancer.
Exposure to AFFF Firefighting Foam and PFAS
Anyone who has been regularly exposed to AFFF firefighting foam over long time periods is potentially at risk of developing cancer from PFAS. Chronic exposure to PFAS in AFFF firefighting foam can occur in one of two ways:
Occupational exposure to AFFF
PFAS contamination in drinking water
Occupational AFFF Exposure
Individuals who worked in certain jobs or professions in which AFFF firefighting foam was regularly used (either by themselves directly or by people around them) have what is considered “occupational exposure” to PFAS from firefighting foam. Firefighters who regularly used AFFF or conducted training exercises with AFFF firefighting foam are the most obvious example of individuals with occupational exposure.
Other examples of individuals with occupational exposure to AFFF firefighting foam would include people who worked at locations where AFFF was used, disposed of, or manufactured. For example, firefighting foam was regularly used during training exercises are commercial airports, military bases, and industrial facilities. Anyone who worked at these facilities may have been exposed to PFAS through indirect contact.
Groundwater PFAS Exposure
The other category of people with chronic exposure to PFAS from AFFF firefighting foam would be individuals who consumed drinking water that was contaminated with PFAS. Hundreds and possibly thousands of residential areas across the country had groundwater that was highly contaminated with PFAS from firefighting foam.
Many of the residential locations with groundwater contaminated by PFAS are located near military bases or airports where AFFF firefighting foam was regularly used. The PFAS in the firefighting foam eventually seeped through the soil and made its way into the water table.
Cancers Caused by AFFF Firefighting Foam
Scientific research has determined that chronic exposure to AFFF firefighting foam (both occupational exposure and groundwater contamination exposure) can cause increased rates of specific types of cancer.
The types of cancer that have been linked to AFFF exposure include:
Leukemia (and other blood cancers)
Who Are the Defendants in AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuits?
The defendants named in the AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits are companies who manufactured and sold AFFF products.
Firefighting foam has been manufactured and sold by a variety of different companies. DuPont and 3M were two of the biggest manufacturers of AFFF firefighting foam and they are key defendants in the current AFFF foam cancer lawsuits.
Evidence has been uncovered which shows that by the 1970s manufacturers like 3M, DuPont and others were already very much aware that the PFAS in their AFFF products were potentially toxic to the environment. Moreover, these companies became aware in the 1990s that these chemicals were harmful to humans and that long-term exposure might be linked to cancer.