Firefighting Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) Cancer: What You Need to Know
Firefighters face a significant risk of developing firefighting foam cancer due to long-term exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals in the foam. Employees in other fire-control occupations, as well as communities, also face a higher risk of developing firefighting foam cancers related to their exposure to Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). Specifically, AFFF has come under intense scrutiny for its ability to cause cancer, as well as a wide range of other illnesses and disorders. It has even prompted the military to begin removing AFFF from use. However, for many – it is too late.
As a result, many people who suffer from AFFF cancers caused by fire fighting foam and related illnesses filed AFFF lawsuits to try and receive compensation for damages, as well as pain and suffering.
You may have been exposed to this substance and are suspicious of its effects but how does this exposure affect people and what injuries might it cause? Which firefighting foam causes cancer? Is firefighting foam toxic?
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we know you have questions related to your exposure to firefighting foam and your development of cancer. We want to help answer those questions, so you can explore your legal options that may include filing a AFFF foam cancer lawsuit against negligent manufacturers.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to AFFF in your community or job, you deserve justice. We can help!
What does AFFF stand for?
AFFF commonly known as firefighting foam stands for Firefighting Aqueous Film Forming Foam. It is used to coat the surfaces at the base of fires in order to starve a flame’s source of oxygen and fuel. It is especially effective at suppressing and putting out flammable liquid fires, known as Class B fires. Scientists invented AFFF for use in fighting oil fires. AFFF grew in popularity as it has little competition in its ability to extinguish liquid fuel fires.
Does AFFF Firefighting Foam Cause Cancer?
Despite it being effective at fighting fires, regular exposure to this substance has resulted in the development of a number of severe illnesses, including serious and deadly cancers. This is due to something contained in fire fighting foams known as Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS has been deemed a dangerous carcinogen by the environmental protection agency.
These harmful substances can be exposed to firefighters and similar at-risk people through absorption through the skin, inhalation, and in some cases, it can be ingested via contaminated water sources.
In fact, a growing number of municipalities and counties are now suing the manufacturers of AFFF firefighting foams as a result of PFAS contamination of land or bodies of water. It is becoming increasingly difficult for AFFF manufacturers to to claim they had no idea just how harmful these dangerous chemicals could be to both humans and the environment. There is an abundance of data illustrating the overall harm of AFFF exposure to military firefighters as these were some of the earliest studies.
A carcinogen is any substance that causes carcinogenesis which is the formation of cancer. Carcinogens usually accomplish this either by damaging the nuclear material contained in a cell that is essential for cellular reproduction or by interfering with a cell’s metabolic processes.
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PFAS Exposure and Human Health
So far, the PFAS chemicals PFOA and PFOS in AFFF firefighting foam have been linked with a significantly high risk of developing cancer when people are exposed to them. Studies have found that firefighting foam and its PFAS chemicals exhibit the same harmful qualities as carcinogens that affect cell DNA, weaken the immune system, induce inflammation, cause cell proliferation, and affect communication between cells. Laboratory animals that have been exposed to PFAS have also been shown to develop cancers as well. There is a whole body of medical literature illustrating the detrimental impact of PFAS exposure on human health.
Types of Fire Fighting Foam Cancers or AFFF Cancers
Manufacturers, producers, and the Department of Defense have known for decades that firefighting foam, specifically AFFF, is toxic. Studies and reports since the 1960s have linked a wide variety of AFFF cancers with long-term exposure to firefighting foam. Firefighters, airport workers, military firefighters, military personnel and communities near military bases may have suffered AFFF cancers after exposure to firefighting toxic chemicals found in drinking water, air particles, or after exposure to the skin.
Types of AFFF cancers or firefighting foam cancers include:
- Testicular Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Bladder Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- Neuroendocrine Cancer
Firefighters and AFFF Cancers
Firefighters are the most at-risk group of people when it comes to AFFF cancers. In 2015, a well-known study found nine fluorinated chemicals at high levels in firefighters exposed to AFFF, sometimes up to three times higher than those in the general population. This increases their risk of suffering serious firefighting foam cancers and medical conditions.
Military and Construction Workers and AFFF Cancers
However, the affected groups do not stop there. Numerous occupations require their workers and employees to handle firefighting foam, either to put our fires directly or for training purposes. While many jobs will simply utilize sprinklers, certain military, industrial, aeronautic, and construction positions deal with the risk of fires fueled by substances that cannot be easily put out by water alone necessitating the use of fire fighting foam.
Communities and Residents and Firefighting Foam Cancers
Communities and medical bases are also at high risk for developing firefighting foam cancers. This is because military bases and airports often use large amounts of AFFF firefighting foam for training purposes. This results in toxins leaching into the groundwater and surface water supplies. AFFF toxic chemicals runoff contaminates well water, as well as public drinking water. This further exposes innocent communities to the toxic effects.
It should be noted that while all direct fire fighting foam exposure is potentially harmful, the risk of developing severe medical issues because of fire fighting foam exposure is not as high in isolated cases of exposure. Most individuals with a clear link between their AFFF cancer and firefighting foam exposure spent considerable time working with these chemicals that allowed buildup of carcinogenic PFAS in their system.
What to Do After a Cancer Diagnosis Related to AFFF Firefighting Foam Exposure?
Cancer diagnosis related to AFFF firefighting foam exposure:
- Kidney cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Bladder cancer
You worked for a fire department or, in some cases, currently work for a fire department. Perhaps you worked directly for the Navy or for an airport, where fire suppression efforts frequently include those chemicals, and you or your doctor suspect that AFFF exposure contributed to your diagnosis.
The steps that you take following your diagnosis can not only protect your physical health, but also your finances. AFFF firefighting foam may have caused you to develop cancer.
- Work with your doctor to create a comprehensive care plan.
Many of the firefighting foam cancer types associated with AFFF exposure, show few signs in their early stages. As a result, by the time you notice symptoms, your cancer may have progressed substantially. In some cases, you may need aggressive treatment to help slow the spread of your cancer and increase your likelihood of recovery.
Your care plan may include several steps.
Surgery. In the case of many cancers, surgery can help remove cancerous cells and slow or stop the spread of cancer. In some cases, such as advanced breast cancer, surgery may require the removal of the affected body part. In other cases, doctors may remove tumors and/or some of the surrounding tissue to help treat the cancer.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy delivers powerful chemicals that kill the fastest-growing cells in your body, including cancer cells. While it does aid in treating and decreasing the spread of cancer, it can also cause a host of side effects as the chemotherapy also impacts other cells throughout the body.
- Radiation. Targeted radiation delivers beams of energy directly to cancer cells, helping to kill the cancer. Some types of cancer respond well to radiation treatments.
- Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy helps your immune system fight cancer. It removes immune cells from the body, reprograms them, and places them back in the body to help the patient fight cancer.
- Palliative care. In addition to the other measures used to treat cancer, your doctor may recommend palliative care: a strategy that helps relieve discomfort and manage the symptoms associated with both cancer and cancer treatments.
Discuss your treatment options with your doctor carefully and begin treatment for your cancer as soon as possible. Not only can prompt treatment help improve the outcome of your diagnosis, it can show vital evidence that you have taken the steps necessary to address your cancer. Showing that you sought treatment and did your best to recover can make it easier for you to get the funds you deserve from an AFFF cancer lawsuit, following your cancer diagnosis.
- Get in touch with experienced firefighting foam cancer lawyers as soon as possible.
Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, contact an experienced law firm to discuss your right to compensation and whether you can file a claim against the company whom produced the AFFF that caused your cancer. You need an attorney who will keep your best interests in mind and, if necessary, go to bat for you to help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Look for an attorney who:
- Has extensive experience in serious and catastrophic injury claims, including claims against AFFF manufacturers. You want an attorney who knows the court system, knows what to expect from your claim, and understands the law with regards to your cancer diagnosis and AFFF exposure.
- Will meet with you at a convenient time and place. You may want an attorney who will come to you, rather than requiring you to come to them as you undergo cancer treatments. In other cases, you may prefer an attorney who can meet with you via electronic means, especially if you have a type of cancer or need a kind of treatment that may dampen your immune system.
- Communicates with you in the manner you prefer. Talk to potential attorneys extensively about their communication style. What method do they prefer to use to communicate? How often will the attorney connect with you? Ask the attorney when you can expect to hear from them and whether they will communicate with you if they have nothing to share.
- Contact your health insurance company.
If you carry health insurance, whether you carry private insurance or carry health insurance through an employer, contact your health insurance company to let them know about your cancer diagnosis. This can streamline the approval of any treatments or procedures you need for cancer treatment, since your insurance company will know about your diagnosis and act accordingly.
You may also want to question your insurance company about your benefits so that you can make plans for your treatments.
Issues Pertaining to Medical Treatment and Bills
How much should you expect to pay out-of-pocket for treatments and procedures? Most insurance policies include both deductibles and copays that you can expect to pay. These amounts represent the percentage of your medical bills you must take responsibility for despite your insurance.
Make sure you have a solid understanding of your medical expenses and how they will impact you during your treatment. Keep in mind that copays and deductibles renew annually and may start over if you change insurance for any reason, including a change in employers or a change in your employer’s insurance company during your treatments.
What is your out-of-pocket maximum each year? In addition to set copays and deductibles, you may have an out-of-pocket maximum that represents the maximum amount you will have to pay for medical treatments each year. That amount resets at the beginning of each year. Ask your insurance company about your out-of-pocket maximum. You should also ask about anything you will still have to pay for after that amount. Is there any area in which that maximum does not apply? What bills should you expect to receive after you meet that amount, if relevant?
What are your in-network providers for cancer treatment? Some insurance companies set up their coverage in tiers. You may have one tier for preferred providers, one tier for non-preferred providers, and another tier for providers they do not cover at all. In some cases, you may need to go outside your insurance company’s preferred network to receive the best treatment for your cancer, but you need to know ahead of time that you have moved out of that network.
Consult with your insurance company to learn what coverage you have and what providers you can use in-network. Establish how the different provider tiers can influence your copays and deductibles: you may, for example, have a separate deductible for each tier, and you may find that your copays increase as you move away from your company’s preferred providers.
What Does Your Insurance Cover
What does your insurance cover? You may already have discussed a clear care plan with your doctor that includes options for your treatment. Before you make a final decision, you may need to know what coverage your insurance company offers. Talk to your insurance company about the different treatments or procedures you may need.
- Surgical treatments
- Hospital stays
- Durable medical equipment, especially if you know you will need treatments that may require medical equipment or assistance for the rest of your life
- In-home care, especially if you would like to spend as much time at home as possible and do not have a caregiver who can take care of you
- Palliative care
You may also want to ask your insurance company about coverage for any optional equipment. For example, fatigue and weakness may cause you to need a wheelchair to get around, but since you do not need the wheelchair for your cancer diagnosis, the insurance company may not automatically approve it. Ask about any steps you may need to take to get those expenses approved.
- Get in touch with your employer and notify them about your diagnosis.
You need to notify your employer about your cancer diagnosis as soon as possible. Once you have worked out a treatment plan with your doctor and have an idea of how it will proceed, you will need to share that information with your employer.
If you have a minor cancer diagnosis that will have little impact on your ability to do your job, you may choose to notify the HR department, your boss directly, or to keep your diagnosis quiet for the time being. On the other hand, if you have a severe diagnosis that has the potential to have a huge impact on your life and your ability to complete your daily work responsibilities, you may need to get in touch with your employer as soon as possible.
- Can you work during cancer treatments? Some people can continue to work as usual during cancer treatments. Others, especially those in highly demanding positions, may not have the strength or energy to take on their usual job tasks. Discuss your doctor’s recommendations with your employer. Remind your employer that your needs could change during your cancer treatments, and let them know that you plan to keep them informed throughout the process. You may need time off to recover from surgery. Some people can work on days they do not directly receive chemotherapy treatments, but may not have the ability to work on treatment days due to scheduling or other needs.
- What changes can your employer make that will make it easier for you to continue to complete your work responsibilities during your treatments? You may need a more flexible schedule or decreased work responsibilities during your cancer treatments. Discuss your needs with your employer. Can you work from home? Do you need a shorter workday or a modified workweek to make coming in to work possible during your treatments? Discuss your needs and your plans with your employer. Stress the fact that you may need to modify these arrangements as treatments progress and you develop a better idea of what limitations you will face and how your cancer treatments will impact you, since everyone has a different reaction to cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation.
What options do you have for claiming disability during your cancer treatments? Many employers will offer disability insurance that can help you during your cancer treatments. In many cases, you can continue to draw a percentage of your income even if you cannot work during your treatments. Talk to your employer about what options you have available, including how long disability will last and what options you have for continuing your health insurance.
Other Health Issues Caused by Fire Fighting Foam Exposure
AFFF cancers are not the only health issues that someone exposed to fire fighting foam containing PFOAS can expect to deal with. In addition to PFOS and PFOAS being linked to an increased risk of cancer, these substances have also been linked to the development of the following health issues.
- Weakened immune system
- Fertility issues and pregnancy-induced hypertension/preeclampsia
- Damage to the liver
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Increased risk of thyroid disease
- Birth defects
- Child developmental issues
- Increased risk of asthma
AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuits
September 30, 2022 update on the firefighter foam lawsuit
The Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Product Liability Litigation, MDL-2873, is an MDL (Multidistrict Litigation) comprised of over 2500 cases in the United States District Court of South Carolina before the Honorable Judge Richard Gergel.
All lawsuits center around claims that PFAS chemicals contained in AFFF firefighting foam caused serious health issues and diseases. The biggest news in this case was a recent order issues by Judge Gergel rejecting 3M’s general contractor defense. 3M argues in a motion for summary judgment that they were immune from liability as they manufactured AFFF firefighting foam subject to a government contract. Judge Gergel determined that 3M withheld pertinent details and studies illustrating the overall danger firefighter foam posed to the human body and the possibility AFFF exposure is causally related to those who developed cancer.
In a review of pending claims within the AFFF class action lawsuit, the most common cancers alleged as a result of PFAS exposure are; testicular cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer. We anticipate the AFFF firefighting foam MDL to continue growing over the next year prior to the first bellwether trial.
Seek an Experienced Product Liability and Mass Torts Attorney
We rely on the producers of various dangerous chemicals to provide us with the proper safety information necessary to ensure that those using their product do so aware of any potential risks to their health. If you have developed cancer or another severe illness because of a company’s product that contained dangerous ingredients and side effects you were unaware of, you may be able to seek compensation for damages you suffered by filing a product liability lawsuit.
Dolman Law Group has assisted those that have suffered at the hands of negligent companies for years by representing injured plaintiffs in product liability lawsuits. We represent firefighting foam victims and families nationwide. As such, do not hesitate to contact our Clearwater office about your case. We offer free consultations to those that have found themselves in this terrible situation. Our attorneys can assist you in building your case, calculating the damages you’ve suffered, negotiating settlements, and representing you at trial if need be. The lawyers of Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA will walk you through every step of the process and maintain close communication with you in regard to your case’s progress. We provide the resources and experience of a larger law firm while also giving each case the personal touch and investment one would expect from a smaller firm.