For years, firefighters have used a special foam called Aqueous Film Forming Foam or AFFF to suppress Class A and Class B fires. AFFF cuts off the oxygen supply in fires and rapidly deplete them faster than traditional water. The military, firefighters, and even home fire extinguishers use it to put out fires. Unfortunately, when used in vast amounts on a consistent basis by government works putting out large fires, it tends to fall onto the person. It has now been discovered that AFFF has harmful properties that are allegedly toxic to humans. There are now multiple scientific studies showcasing the claimed toxic chemical elements. Since then, lawyers are issuing lawsuits and representing people that were exposed to the foam. Additionally, these people have developed various types of cancer claiming the AFFF foam was responsible. After further research, Scientists have found that firefighting foam is toxic.
What is AFFF and What Does it Contain?
AFFF stands for Aqueous Film Forming Foam and is a very effective firefighting substance. AFFF has been putting out large liquid fires for over 50 years Fires that call for AFFF foam assistance would include:
- Chemical plants
- Flammable liquid storage and processing facilities
- Merchant operations (oil tankers, offshore platforms)
- Municipal services (fire departments, firefighting training centers)
- Oil refineries, terminals, and bulk fuel storage farms
- Aviation operations (aircraft rescue and firefighting, hangars)
- Military facilities
AFFF contains many substances including its active ingredient, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS). PFAS are in many common household items including carpets, clothes, furniture, adhesive, food packaging, fabrics, and non-stick cookware. PFAS has been used in many studies in an attempt to prove it is harmful to humans. The United States Department of Veterans issued a public health notice warning veterans of possible PFAS exposure and what it could do to their health.
There are about 5000 types of PFAS which means there is a lot to cover when studying them separately. Because there are so many, it will take time to find their potential harmful features. According to the FDA, they state that the science surrounding the possible health effects of PFAS is still developing. But, current evidence suggests that the DNA of certain PFAS may cause serious health problems. Scientists say that some PFAS may stay in your system for longer and can rise over time to high and dangerous levels.
Health Hazards & Effects
Anyone can be exposed to PFAS which is the active ingredient in AFFF. But firefighters and military personnel have a higher risk than the average person. When firefighters use the foam they blast it in large amounts onto the fire or even in training. When the foam is used, it gets all over the fire, ground, location, and person. People handling the foam are directly exposed to it and get it all over their skin. People are much more likely to absorb high amounts of potentially harmful chemicals found in the foam. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) particular PFAS may cause negative side effects including
- Fertility issues and pregnancy-induced hypertension/preeclampsia
- Increased cholesterol
- Changes in the immune system
- Increased risk of certain cancers
- Changes in fetal and child development
- Liver damage
- Increased risk of thyroid disease
- Increased risk of asthma
There have many new studies reporting that PFAS is more harmful than originally predicted. Because of this more lawsuits have been developing concerning their exposure to the alleged toxin. Current lawsuits developing are people developing certain types of cancer allegedly from exposure to the toxic firefighting foam as a firefighter or military troop. Claimed cancers developing include testicular, breast, prostate, pancreatic, kidney, and other forms of cancer. By multiple parties and organizations, PFAS is classified as a possible human carcinogen that possesses potential cancer-causing properties.
Is Firefighting Foam Toxic to the Environment?
AFFF poses many threats to the environment because of how it is used. When the fire foam is shot out, it covers most of the surface area including the fire, the land, and anything else around. It can potentially seep into waters, trees, soil, crops, habitats, or sewers affecting animals and environmental factors. According to findings, PFAS does not readily breakdown in the environment and is water-soluble. Because of this, any area that has had a fire put out using AFFF fire foam has the potential to absorb the PFAS compounds. Evidently, this may become harmful to the environment and the people and/or animals living in the area.
There are so many different strains of PFAS and the side effects are so new. Because of this, many organizations are continuing to do research to show the effects of PFAS on their environment. They show how it is contaminating our waters and other environmental factors. Click on this interactive map to show the contamination of PFAS in the United States: AFFF Contaminated States
Do I Qualify for Compensation?
If you served as a firefighter and/or military troop and handled AFFF foam in combat, fire rescue, or training you could qualify. In addition to being exposed to the foam, if you developed any illnesses or cancers you may qualify for legal compensation. The next thing you should do is find yourself proper legal representation who is experienced in product liability and mass tort cases. It is important to find an experienced and trustworthy attorney to help you get the compensation and aid you need and deserve.