Is Firefighting Foam (AFFF) Banned?

August 24, 2022
Is Firefighting Foam (AFFF) Banned?

Firefighting Foam Linked to Cancer is Still in Use

The evidence is clear: toxic chemicals found in firefighting foam are responsible for a laundry list of cancers and a host of debilitating health conditions. The irony is that the chemicals that make Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) so effective also make it dangerous; the heat-resistant properties of perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOAs) form the ideal building blocks for firefighting foam, but they are also carcinogens, especially in female firefighters

The Response to Firefighting Foam and the Knowledge of its Danger

As public awareness of this issue has grown, the scrutiny of what exactly is being done about these harmful substances has increased significantly. A wave of class action lawsuits against chemical companies like Dupont and 3m have drawn the harm they have caused into the limelight. Product liability lawsuits can only do so much so many are looking to the government for response.  Many states have responded with restrictions on the usage of Aqueous Film Forming Foam, demanded updates on decontamination processes, and even sought to buy out existing supplies.  Exposure most commonly occurs at military bases, fires and firefighting training courses, and airports. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there; the dangerous PFOAs can seep into the soil and groundwater supply, increasing the impact radius and affecting unsuspecting civilians through contaminated drinking water. 

Where is Toxic Firefighting Foam Being Used?

For decades, AFFF has been the go-to fire extinguisher for airports, firefighters, and the U.S. military. Its effectiveness led to its widespread use, spreading toxic PFOAs wherever it was employed. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida has 15 sites where PFOA has been confirmed, and 8 locations where it is suspected. Unsurprisingly, this list contains military bases and airports, but it also includes Florida's Kennedy Space Center. While regulatory agencies have made substantial efforts to eradicate the use of hazardous firefighting foam, it has a shelf life of 20 to 25 years, and alternatives are still in their early (and expensive) stages. The primary user of AFFF is the U.S. military, but they are not the only people at risk.

Why is AFFF Still Being Used if It Is a Known Carcinogen?

In general, PFOAs are no longer produced domestically, as some major companies responded to the backlash and largely ceased production by 2015. The question still remains, if we know the effects of toxic chemicals in firefighting foam, why is it still being used in some cases?  The simple answer is that the priority is to be able to extinguish fires; an unchecked fire can cause massive property damage, severe burn injuries, and death due to smoke inhalation or burns.  Despite the risk of exposure to carcinogens, the U.S. military made the call to safeguard the integrity of their bases -which contain highly flammable and explosive materials- and need to be defense-ready. The fact remains that there are limited effective alternatives to AFFF.

How Are the Risks of AFFF Being Mitigated?

The Department of Defense has invested considerable resources into developing an alternative to AFFF as a fire extinguisher. The stiff criteria- foam that can be stored and used with existing equipment, as well as satisfy EPA and DoD requirements-  have delayed a solution.  In the meantime, the DoD has engaged in a large-scale clean-up of sites contaminated by toxic PFOAs from the use of AFFF. The military plans to phase out the use of firefighting foam containing PFOAs by October 2024, as directed in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. However, this deadline is still two and a half years away, leaving little protection for the people who are exposed in the meantime.

Current Florida Legislation Seeks to Reduce the Use of AFFF

Identical bills introduced in both chambers of the Florida legislature stipulate that firefighting foam can only be used to prevent a fire or extinguish one in an emergency for fire service providers.  The state government does not have jurisdiction over military bases, so this mainly applies to fire departments. In its current form, the bill does not comment on the “manufacturing, sale, or distribution” of AFFF.  While this is a step in the right direction, critics advocate for stronger protections, including increased monitoring with publicly available data, accountability for manufacturers, and an all-out ban on PSOAs in non-consumer products.

Who Can I Hold Liable for Cancer Caused by Firefighting Foam?

People who join the military or fire department agree to put their lives on the line for the benefit of others, and the glaring negligence of AFFF manufacturers and distributors is a slap in the face to that service. Families who live around military bases or airports have not made the same commitment; the risk for these private citizens is also heightened due to their proximity, yet they may not even be aware of the possibility of contamination until it's too late.

Chemical Companies Can be Considered Liable for Firefighting Foam Cancer

Companies like 3M and DuPont were well aware of the potential risks of their products; documents demonstrate that they had knowledge of serious health risks associated with their products as far back as the 1950s, which were corroborated by the likes of Stanford University and the FDA.  These companies not only violated consumer rights to know about the potential harm posed by certain products in the name of profit. This gross negligence is an extraordinary violation of the duty of care that they have towards those who use firefighting foam making them liable in a product liability lawsuit over the damages caused This level of negligence demands accountability. You need an experienced attorney who won't shy away from taking on big companies. 

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Firefighting Foam Cancer Lawsuit

An elevated risk of cancer, thyroid issues, and a compromised immune system shouldn't be par for the course when it comes to doing your job. When a corporation knowingly allows dangerous products like AFFF to be used by unsuspecting workers, they deserve to be held accountable for the havoc they wreak on the lives of innocent people. Cancer is costly, for your bank account and your body; at your most vulnerable, you may be forced to contend with medical debt and mental health issues. Let the lawyers of Dolman Law Group support you and guide you through the process of filing a personal injury claim, from securing medical evaluations to preparing trial paperwork to convincing a jury of the damages you deserve.   We will relentlessly pursue a settlement that properly compensates you for the damages inflicted and the losses to come, whether that be in the form of loss of consortium, pain and suffering, or lost wages If you've developed cancer after serving in the military, working on an airfield, or as a firefighter, or lost a loved one to cancer after being exposed to firefighting foam, we can help you determine if you're eligible for damages in a product liability lawsuit. Contact our offices at 866-416-1344. You can also send us an email on our contact us page.

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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