Product Liability

Firefighting foam linked to cancer, other health problems

October 31, 2019

Although most people have been exposed to PFAS at low levels, individuals with higher exposure, including firefighters, military personnel, and residents living near military bases, are at a greater risk of PFAS-related health problems.

In the early 1960s, the US Naval Research Laboratory conducted research on fire suppression that would ultimately lead to the development of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). AFFF, a synthetic foam with low viscosity, rapidly extinguishes hydrocarbon fuel fires by forming an aqueous film on the fuel surface that prevents evaporation and reignition of the fuel. The firefighting foam, due to its effectiveness, would eventually be used on all US Navy aircraft carriers as well as by major airports and civilian fire departments.

While effective as a fire suppressant, concerns have been raised regarding AFFF’s toxicity and potential negative effects on both the environment and human health. AFFF contains perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), synthetic chemicals that are persistent – they do not break down in the environment. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two PFAS found in AFFF with documented toxicity, and scientists warn about the accumulation of these compounds in wildlife and human blood.

Because these compounds are extremely persistent in the environment, there have been several instances of water contamination near airports and military bases that have triggered drinking water shutdowns. Studies have further linked the chemicals to kidney and bladder cancer, as well as thyroid disease.

Due to these concerns, 3M, the largest manufacturer of PFOS, phased out production of the compound in 2002. Several countries eventually banned new production of PFOS-based products, including the US, Japan, European Union, Canada, and Australia. The Department of Defense is currently conducting an investigation to determine the extent of PFAS contamination on its bases.

Although most people have been exposed to PFAS at low levels, individuals with higher exposure, including firefighters, military personnel, and residents living near military bases, are at a greater risk of PFAS-related health problems. Studies suggest that certain PFAS may be associated with:

·        Increased risk of thyroid disease

·        Increased risk of cancer (e.g. kidney, bladder, and testicular cancer)

·        Liver damage

·        Increased risk of asthma

·        Increased cholesterol

·        Fertility issues and changes in fetal and child development

·        Changes in immune system

If you are a veteran of a military base or resident who lived near a military base and are suffering from one or more of these associated health problems, you may be entitled to compensation without ever going to court. We’ll help you determine if you have a claim, navigate the process, and maximize your potential compensation. If you do not receive a recovery through a lawsuit or settlement, you don’t owe us anything.

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