Female Firefighters Face Higher Exposure to Carcinogens From PFAS

January 31, 2023
Female Firefighters Face Higher Exposure to Carcinogens From PFAS

Study Shows Women Firefighters with Higher Levels of PFAS

Female firefighters may be at a greater risk of developing cancer after working with carcinogens such as those found in firefighting foam or aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF).  AFFF is a firefighting tool utilized to put out fires such as oil-based flames and fires caused by jet fuel. Many female firefighters have raised concerns that being on the job may be putting them at a higher risk of developing breast cancer as well as other types of cancer.

Researchers from the University of California Berkeley's School of Public Health concluded that female firefighters are exposed to carcinogens and could develop breast carcinogens. According to the lead author Jessica Trowbridge, “Women firefighters actually raised concern about what they have perceived as elevated rates of breast cancer among the cohort in San Francisco”.  In 2012 the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation noticed an alarming trend where five female firefighters were diagnosed with breast cancer in that year alone.

In this study, researchers collected blood samples from 86 female firefighters and 84 women office workers in the downtown are of San Francisco. Each female participant was also subjected to hour-long interviews about work activities, eat habits and their knowledge of PFAS exposure. Researchers found that of the 12 types of PFAS chemicals tested, 7 were detected in most participants blood samples, and 4 was detected in all participants samples.  3 of the 7 chemicals found in most samples- PFHxS, PFUnDA, and PFNA was reporting a significantly higher amount in firefighters' blood than the office worker's blood.

Studies looking for PFAS exposure rates among firefighters have predominantly focused on males. “This is the first study, to our knowledge, that's been done on [specifically] women firefighters” said by Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor of environmental science, policy, and management at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study.

Firefighters Face a Higher Risk of AFFF Cancers

In addition to female firefighters, all firefighters are at an increased risk for developing AFFF cancers. According to the International Pollutants Elimination Network, there is strong evidence to show that firefighters using AFFF have unacceptable blood levels of both PFHxS and PFOS. This exposure is likely due to many different sources of firefighting foam, including:

  • Using firefighting foam in operations and training
  • Contact with contaminated PPE
  • Using and operating equipment contaminated with AFFF
  • Managing PFAS waste
  • Occupation of fire stations that are contaminated with these toxic forever chemicals

Sadly, firefighters do not have to face this risk. There are other alternatives that work without exposure to these deadly firefighting foam chemicals.  Due to the risk of AFFF cancers, the National Defense Authorization Act has directed all Department of Defense fire departments to cease using AFFF and AR-AFFF by 2024. Congress also asked that safety experts identify and certify PFAS-free firefighting gear to help further protect firefighters.

Class Action Lawsuit Against Manufactures in State of Florida

December 20, 2018 six former employees from the Florida State Fire College and two spouses filed a lawsuit against manufacturers of firefighting suppressant AFFF used by the college. The suit claims that the manufacturing companies were responsible for bringing AFFF containing two toxic components of the foam, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to the college that caused their illnesses. The symptoms these employees were suffering from were thyroid disease, parathyroid cancer, kidney disease, breast cancer, bilateral renal masses, ulcerative colitis. The suit alleges gross negligence, and strict liability, seeking over thirty-five million in damages to include five million for medical monitoring and five million in punitive damages.

PFAS Chemicals in Firefighting Foam

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is a large family of man-made chemical compounds found in a wide range of consumer products such as nonstick products, polishes, firefighting foam, uniforms, grease and water-resistant coating in fabrics and food packaging. Certain PFAS can accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time. Long-term exposure of high concentrations will cause a build-up and have a negative health effect.

Scientist are still actively working to understand the full effects of PFAS chemicals on the human body. PFAS is a resilient chemical which benefits many products but can be very damaging to human health. Known as “the forever chemical”, PFAS earned the name because these manmade chemicals are nearly indestructible and are impossible to avoid due to these chemicals being apart of everything we use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long warned of the link between AFFF and cancer. In fact, the CDC is presently studying the contamination of drinking water by firefighting foam.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has a long and successful history of fighting for the injured and we can help you too. There is no fee unless we recover money for your case. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your firefighting foam cancer lawsuit.

PFOS and PFOA chemicals and the Dangers

The two most damaging PFAS that are in firefighting foam are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These two chemicals exhibit a number of dangerous carcinogenic properties that damage cell health and lead to cancer. Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the effects of PFOA and PFOS exposure. The conclusion is that these chemicals are not only dangerous because they can give you cancer but also because they have a very long half-life. This basically means that PFOA and PFOS take an incredibly long amount of time to break down. These chemicals will last longer than you and often find their way into the environment and in your food and water and eventually into your body where they build up continually poisoning you all the while.

Cancer Caused by Firefighting Foam

Nothing can make up for the pain and suffering due to a company's negligence, but at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we will aggressively fight for justice on behalf of our clients and their loved ones by protecting their rights and seeking the justice they deserve.

The most common injury that is associated with firefighters and common people exposed to AFFF is cancer. This exposure actually does not result in a few specific types of cancer but can  instead inflict a wide array of cancers upon the unwary such as:

  • Kidney (renal) cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Neuroendocrine tumors
  • Prostate cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer (colon and/or rectal cancer)

If you were diagnosed with cancer linked to the chemicals found in firefighting foam, the companies that manufactured the firefighting foam, those who sell it, and the employers that continued to expose you to it may be responsible in an AFFF lawsuit. Some firefighting foam manufacturers include but are not limited to:

  • 3M Company
  • DuPont
  • Chemours Company
  • Chemguard
  • Corteva, Inc.
  • Buckeye Fire Equipment Co.
  • Kidde-Fenwal
  • National Foam
  • Tyco Fire Products

Were You Diagnosed with Cancer After Being Exposed to Firefighting Foam?

Companies that produced AFFF knew the long-term health risk associated with these toxic chemicals for decades. Companies like 3M, Dupont Co, Chemours Co, Tyco, Chemguard, Kidde-Fenwal, and others are responsible for not warning citizens and workers of the dangers of their chemicals and that their chemical builds up in humans and the environment. Some lawyers have compared this situation to other litigation concerning chemicals like asbestos, tobacco, and lead paint.

If you or a loved one has developed a serious illness or cancer because of a company's negligence or has been exposed to the toxic chemicals in AFFF firefighting foam, you may be entitled to seek compensation for the damages you suffered by filing a product liability lawsuit. The firefighting foam lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you to receive compensation for:

  • Medical bills and expenses related to your cancer treatment
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Lost wages or lost future earning capacity
  • Other related damages

Dolman Law Group has extensive experience helping clients who have suffered because of a company's negligence by vigorously representing injured clients. We will investigate your claim and help you to seek the justice you deserve. The experienced AFFF firefighting foam lawyers at Dolman Law Group prides itself on fighting for victims by holding companies accountable for their negligence while seeking justice and getting them the compensations, they deserve.

Dolman Law Group offers a FREE, no-obligation consultation with a No Recovery, No Fee Promise. If you believe you or a loved one has an AFFF firefighting foam cancer case, call us at (727)-451-6900 or fill out our online form.

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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