Know your rights and injury

AFFF (Firefighting Foam) Lawsuit

afff firefighting foam lawsuit

For years, manufacturers and firefighting agencies have known about the risks associated with firefighting foam or AFFF. Although this substance works well to extinguish fires, there are also many risks associated with its use. Filing an AFFF lawsuit may be an effective way to fight back against the entities responsible for your pain and suffering. 

Read on to learn how to join a firefighting foam lawsuit and how AFFF can cause serious health issues for the people who use it, including Air Force firefighters. 

What Is AFFF (Firefighting Foam)?

AFFF stands for “aqueous film-forming foam” and has been used since the 1960s to help firefighters suppress fires. It is mainly used in dangerous military and airport-related fires because it is especially effective in extinguishing fires produced by jet fuel and petroleum – both of which are often present on military bases and at airports. 

Firefighting foam is made from per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are not biodegradable. The chemicals used to make firefighting foam are synthetic compounds that are deadly to those exposed to it, specifically those containing PFOS (perfluorooctanesulphonate-based fluorosurfactants). Firefighters working on military bases and at airports who come in contact with these substances can develop many types of cancer, especially with frequent exposure. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have all linked PFAS to cancer, meaning that exposure to firefighting foam is a serious health risk. Because of this, many fire departments have stopped using PFAS-containing firefighting foam. However, because of its effectiveness at extinguishing jet fuel fires, many military bases and airports still use it.

What Occupations Are at a High Risk for AFFF Cancer?

Firefighters in the United States are at the highest risk for exposure to AFFF, especially if they work in or around facilities that house aircraft. However, this risk is not just limited to firefighters. Workers in areas that are at higher risk for Class B fires, as well as processing facilities that manufacture AFFF, are also at risk. 

People who have a higher risk of AFFF cancer may work for:

  • Chemical plants
  • Oil refineries
  • Bulk fuel storage farms
  • Firefighter training areas
  • Aircraft crash sites
  • Airport hangars
  • Military jet bases
  • Processing and storage facilities for flammable liquids

How Is Firefighting Foam (AFFF) Used?

Because AFFF is suited best for jet fuel spills, it is primarily used on Air Force bases and other areas where jets are used and stored (though there are many types of aqueous film-forming foams with specific applications). Firefighting foam is particularly useful for Class B fires, which are fires caused by flammable liquids or gases. These include:

  • Petroleum greases
  • Tars
  • Oils
  • Oil-based paints
  • Solvents
  • Lacquers
  • Propane
  • Natural gases
  • Gasoline and kerosene
  • Alcohols and ether
  • Lighter fluid
  • Plastics that contain any of the above

Class B fires require an extinguishing agent that would not work on other classes of fires. For instance, Class A fires can be extinguished using water, but using water on a Class B fire would be ineffective and extremely dangerous. Because Class B fires need a unique solution to put them out, firefighting foam is a frequent choice. 

The synthetic fluorine in AFFF forms a film between the burning hydrocarbons in the fire’s flames while protecting other compounds in the foam from the extreme heat, enabling it to suffocate the fire.  

What’s the Difference Between PFAS, PFOS, and PFOA Firefighting Foams?

AFFF is a synthetic, water-based foam that can contain any mixture of fluorine-based elements. Each abbreviation stands for:

  • PFAS = Per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances
  • PFOS = Perfluoro octane sulfate
  • PFOA = Perfluorooctanoic acid

PFAS are manmade chemicals that have been present in industry and consumer products since the 1950s. PFOS and PFOA are byproducts created during the manufacturing and breakdown of PFAS. All are considered hazardous substances and require a thorough cleanup to prevent adverse health and environmental impacts. 

What Else Are PFAS Used For?

Widespread water contamination is one of the biggest and likely the most damaging repercussion caused by common use of PFAS. These substances are found in a wide variety of everyday products, including:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Food packaging
  • Water-resistant fabrics
  • Treated carpets
  • Waterproof makeup
  • Sunscreens
  • Shampoos
  • Shaving creams

What Is the Link Between Firefighting Foam and Cancer?

The chemicals in the foam that are so effective at extinguishing fires are synthetic, which means they are not degradable. Once the fire is out, the AFFF remains, and it is very difficult to clean it up completely. Therefore, this harmful compound often winds up in the groundwater that people drink, prepare food with, bathe in, and more. Widespread contamination of our water supply and food can cause extreme illness or even death.

Aqueous film-forming foams contain compounds like hydrocarbon-based surfactants, fluorosurfactants, and perfluorooctanoic acids. These substances are known to be groundwater contaminants and they inflict significant damage on both people and the environment.

What Medical Risks Are Associated with Firefighting Foam? 

AFFF is made of ingredients that can be deadly to people who are exposed to it long-term. The substances used in making fluorinated surfactants are often found in the bloodstreams of firefighters who use this foam, and very often in those who also develop cancers. 

PFAS-based firefighting foam can many different types of cancer, including:

  • Renal cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

The foam’s byproduct, PFOA, can also cause cancer, thyroid complications, developmental issues in fetuses, and other damaging health effects. 

Are There Alternatives to Firefighting Foam?

Yes, there are safer alternatives to AFFF. Firefighting foams that do not contain fluorine have been found to work just as well as PFAS-based firefighting foam. However, many departments lack the proper training to use them, and the progress to phase out PFAS AFFF has been slow. 

What Legislation Is There Against AFFF?

PFAS (including firefighting foam) continue to make headlines because of their now widely known toxic nature. The PFOS found in firefighting foam was added to Annex B of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2009, and other PFOS-based products are now banned from being produced in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and various countries in the European Union due to their toxicity. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is another effort to end the damaging effects caused by PFAS like firefighting foam. The NDAA is a series of federal laws focused on reducing and eventually completely phasing out the use of PFAS-based foams by the year 2024. The first NDAA bill was passed in 1962 and outlined a budget plan. Today, the NDAA sets guidelines for defense policy in the United States that controls how the military and the U.S. Department of Defense use their funds. 

Other efforts to ban firefighting foam include the EPA’s plan to protect the public from exposure to PFOA and PFOS. This plan involves updating state and national water health advisories more regularly and developing new drinking water regulations for AFFF contaminants. 

Is AFFF a National Problem or a Global Problem?

Safety issues caused by firefighting foam in other parts of the world have been brought to the public’s attention as well. These include contaminated water supplies in Williamtown Air Force Base in Australia caused by AFFF use, high levels of PFOS and PFOA in groundwater in New Zealand, and complaints of firefighting foam leaking from a U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa, Japan. All these cases and others have been met with protests amidst severe environmental and public health concerns.

What Are AFFF (Firefighting Foam) Lawsuits?

Despite public awareness of the dangers of AFFF and our efforts to convert to safer alternatives, the health risk for those who are exposed to firefighting foam and other PFAS-based products still exists. 

Today, the chemicals from AFFF can be detected in the drinking water of millions of Americans in 49 states. There are also more than 300 U.S. military installations that use AFFF, putting even more people at risk for exposure to this deadly substance.

It likely comes as no surprise that the number of lawsuits related to AFFF has also risen. In 2019, the Attorney General’s office in New York filed a lawsuit against several AFFF manufacturers, and other states have followed New York’s lead in the years since then. 

What Companies Are Being Targeted in AFFF Lawsuits?

The New York lawsuit points to companies like Chemours, 3M, and DuPont for their responsibility in making and selling PFAS despite their toxic nature, as well as their role in contaminating public water supplies.

More people who become sick after being exposed to AFFF are seeking to file their own lawsuit or become part of one of the many lawsuits against the companies that manufacture it.

Who Can Join a Lawsuit Against Companies That Make AFFF or PFAS?

There are many possible lawsuits to join if you were exposed to AFFF and suffered serious health issues as a result. Most AFFF lawsuits require two basic criteria to be able to qualify:

  1. You can prove your exposure to PFAS: In other words, you can show that you used or were exposed to firefighting foam regularly over a prolonged period of time. Meeting this criteria should be simple if you are a firefighter or your job regularly required you to use AFFF.
  2. You developed cancer: In addition to proving exposure to PFAS, you must have also been diagnosed with a certain type of cancer after your exposure. Kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and other forms of cancer qualify for most AFFF lawsuits.

Law firms will have varying criteria, but these are usually the main requirements. Specific lawsuits may relate more closely to your occupation, such as Air Force firefighters. 

How Can I Join a Lawsuit as an Air Force Firefighter Using AFFF? 

If you are a firefighter, U.S. military member, or airport worker who developed cancer after long-term exposure to firefighting foam, you might qualify to file a lawsuit. If you worked at a job that involved using firefighting foam – or you were adjacent to a location that used it – and experienced significant medical issues, it is very possible that AFFF caused your health complications. 

What Can You Expect from Joining an AFFF Lawsuit?

Through a firefighting foam cancer lawsuit, you or your loved one can fight for compensation for your pain and suffering. An AFFF lawsuit can help alleviate the financial burden of medical bills, lost wages, funeral expenses, and more. You can also fight for non-financial losses, such as mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life. 

Lawsuits are filed against AFFF manufacturers as well as employers who knowingly require the use of PFAS-based firefighting foam. In mass-tort settlements, the defendant(s) pay a large sum of money into a global settlement fund that gets distributed to all plaintiffs in the lawsuit. A firefighting foam lawyer can explain this process to you in greater detail.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me File or Join an AFFF Lawsuit?

Laws regarding personal injury vary from state to state, so understanding the deadlines for an AFFF lawsuit in your state is essential. If you miss your state’s deadline, you will not qualify and will lose your ability to fight for financial compensation. 

Hiring a personal injury attorney can help make this entire process easier and ensure that all deadlines are met. An AFFF lawyer can:

  • Gather evidence from your medical and work histories to prove that you were exposed to PFAS
  • Negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf
  • Represent you in court if necessary

An AFFF lawsuit attorney will listen to your concerns and help you understand your legal rights and options. The first step is reaching out for help. 

Connect With a Lawyer in Our Network Today

The easiest way to find out if you qualify for an AFFF lawsuit in your state is to contact an attorney’s office. To get a free case evaluation, contact us by filling out this form or calling 1-844-44TORTS (1-844-448-6787).