When Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) was initially developed in the 1960s, experts at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory believed that the product would be invaluable to worldwide aviation safety. By the late 1970s, the fire suppressant was in use at more than 90 airports in the U.S. alone, and was also becoming a favorite tool of civilian fire departments. The Navy went on to put the product to use on all of its aircraft carriers and other branches of the military also sought the fire-fighting benefits of the foam.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to AFFF. It contains a chemical compound known as PFAS that can cause cancer and other health issues in those who have been exposed to PFAS through their job in the military, or as a civilian firefighter or airport worker. Additionally, the fire fighting foam that has been used through the years has found its way into the soil and groundwater of populations living near airports and military bases across the U.S., resulting in exposure to others who have never come in contact with the foam through their employment.
If you have suffered a health condition as a result of exposure to aqueous film-forming foam, you should be aware that multi-district litigation formed and plaintiffs are filing cases against the companies that manufactured the foam, even after knowing that it was likely to cause negative health effects.
The experienced product liability attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you understand the legal options that are available for you. Contact us for more information.
What Are PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of manmade chemical compounds that are used in a variety of different applications, including packaging for food and commercial household products such as stain- and water-repellent fabrics and non-stick pans. Two of the PFAS that are found in fire fighting foam—PFOS and PFOA—are no longer manufactured in the U.S., and the industry has been developing new fire fighting foam products in recent years that, while still containing similar chemicals, are believed to be less toxic. However, because AFFF products have a very long shelf life, there are likely to be stockpiles of the older product still available and ready to be used.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are stable chemicals comprised of chains of eight carbons and possessing a unique ability to repel both oil and water. Until 2001, these were the PFAS that were used in aqueous film-forming foam. In 2002, the biggest manufacturer of PFOS, 3M, voluntarily stopped producing the compound. A few years later, eight major companies in the PFAS industry agreed to phase out the production of PFOA and PFOA-containing chemicals by 2015. In addition to the existing stock of these products, other companies did not agree to the phase-out and are still producing products with PFOA.
Some of the major companies who have produced aqueous film-forming foam include:
- Tyco Fire Products
- Buckeye Fire Equipment Co.
- Corteva, Inc.
- Chemours Company
- National Foam
Not only have PFOS and PFOA contaminated groundwater and soil near military installations and airports, but they have also been found near the manufacturing plants that produced these chemicals as well as in the products that contain them. Studies have revealed that small levels of PFAS are found in the general population as well as in wildlife, due to decades of widespread usage of PFAS-containing products. However, the blood serum concentration levels of PFOS and PFOA are higher in individuals who work or live near facilities where the chemicals are used or produced than they are in the general population.
PFAS exposure can come through:
- Ingestion of food that was grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or packaged in PFAS-containing products.
- Ingestion of water from municipal supplies that have been contaminated by PFAS.
- Use of PFAS-containing products including certain household cleaners, nonstick cookware, and water-repellent fabrics.
- Inhalation of PFAS-containing particles found both in the air and in the dust in highly contaminated areas.
PFAS chemicals can remain in the body for a long time, producing adverse medical effects, including certain types of cancer, low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, and thyroid hormone disruption.
What is Aqueous Film-Forming Foam?
Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) has been used consistently since the 1960s by branches of the U.S. military, NATO, and by fire fighting organizations around the world. In addition to PFAS, the product also contains hydrocarbon surfactants, solvents, inorganic salts, corrosion inhibitors, and water. By using PFAS in foam, the product has low surface tension and the ability to spread, making it a superior product for fighting flammable liquid fires, such as those involving jet fuel or gasoline.
In June 1987, a construction bulldozer in Fairfax, Virginia, ruptured an underground gas line, causing highly flammable liquid gas and vapors to quickly spread over a wide area and resulting in the evacuation of the surrounding community. Fire fighting organizations and airports around the region supplied AFFF and it was the primary agent used at the spill site. Officials noted at the time that it was “a miracle” that the gas from the ruptured line did not ignite.
Despite AFFF’s miraculous contribution to preventing disaster in Fairfax, by the 1980s, the Air Force was already conducting animal studies that would reveal the dangers posed by the PFAS ingredients in the foam. In 1985, the Navy issued a report that cited the toxic effects of PFAS in fire fighting foam, and in 1989, the Air Force called for better management of AFFF waste due to its toxicity.
That said, the Air Force continues to maintain a large stockpile of the product and still uses it for fighting petroleum fires, though they’ve spent the past decade working on reducing the amount of the AFFF stockpile they have on hand. The Department of Defense is currently testing for PFAS contamination at 664 locations where the military has conducted fire or crash training.
PFAS Exposure Through Fire Fighting Foam: Real-Life Examples
Recently, California became the fifth—and largest—state to ban the sale, manufacture, and use of fire fighting foam containing PFAS. Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation banning the products after an advocacy organization estimated that 7.5 million Californians have high levels of toxic PFAS in their drinking water, with much of the contamination being blamed on fire fighting foam. Other states to have banned PFAS-containing AFFF include Colorado, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington.
Around the time Gov. Newsome was signing legislation on fire fighting foam in California, on the other side of the nation—in New York—the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation declared Sullivan County International Airport, in Bethel, as a state Superfund Program site due to PFAS contamination in the drinking water largely caused by fire fighting training and the use of AFFF. The state also identified contamination in the former drinking water supply for the City of Newburgh, as a result of fire fighting training conducted many years ago at Stewart Air National Guard Base.
It is believed that the PFAS contamination found in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture is also the result of AFFF use at the nearby U.S. Air Base Kadena. The base is home to around 20,000 U.S. and Japanese citizens, and the contamination has affected the drinking water of almost a half a million people in the surrounding area. A team of Kyoto researchers has reported that the levels of contamination in the blood of residents in three cities of the prefecture are four times higher than that of other Japanese people. In addition, affected individuals are suffering from liver problems and high cholesterol levels, which are common effects of PFAS contamination.
The Department of Defense has made no moves to prevent the contamination from continuing to occur and has offered no solutions for contamination that has already taken place. In fact, department officials noted that there is no guarantee that the contamination even came from their use of AFFF in fire fighting and training activities. In April 2020, the military granted Japanese officials rare access to the base after a barbecue party in an airport hangar there set off the sprinkler system, resulting in 140,000 liters of fire fighting foam and water to spill from the base into surrounding areas.
Recovering Damages in AFFF Cases
In early 2019, faced with hundreds of personal injury cases filed by individuals who were physically harmed by PFAS exposure from firefighting foam, the cases were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pre-trial purposes in the United States District Court’s South Carolina District. As of May 2020, the MDL was composed of more than 500 cases from around the country.
Multidistrict litigation is a method that is used to relieve the burden on the court system that is caused by multiple cases across many districts, that feature the same defendant and similar claims against that defendant. MDLs differ from class actions as the class action consolidates the cases for the duration of the trial, while MDL cases are only consolidated for the pre-trial discovery phase before being returned individually to the districts where the cases originated from.
If you have suffered from a health condition related to exposure to PFAS through fire fighting foam, you can recover damages related to the expenses and impacts this health condition has caused you to experience.
Damages you might recover include:
- Medical expenses, including diagnostic testing, hospitalization, prescription medication, and physician or surgical services.
- Lost wages resulting from being too sick to work or missing work to attend medical appointments related to your condition.
- Loss of future earning capacity if the severity of your illness prevents you from working.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
Those who have lost a loved one as a result of an illness caused by exposure to PFAS through fire fighting foam can also recover damages, including loss of support and services provided by the deceased, funeral expenses, and loss of prospective net accumulations by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the companies responsible for manufacturing and distributing the foam.
Some of the claims that have already been made against defendants in similar lawsuits include:
- The companies knew or reasonably should have known that there was a risk of harmful effects from exposure to the toxins found in fire fighting foam. The Environmental Working Group provides documentation that reveals that 3M began testing animals exposed to PFAS and knew that the chemicals were building up in the blood of lab mice as early as 1950—a half-century before the company quit manufacturing PFAS in the U.S.
- The companies failed to warn those who came in contact with fire fighting foam of the potential hazards that PFAS can cause to humans.
- The companies failed to design and market a fire fighting foam free from unreasonable risks to consumers.
- The companies failed to issue adequate safety warnings about the need for protective equipment when working with AFFF or to enact voluntary recalls to mitigate this risk.
To file a lawsuit for AFFF exposure, you must demonstrate the following criteria in your case:
- You held an occupation or lived in an area near a military base, airport, or PFAS manufacturing plant that resulted in exposure to high levels of PFAS over an extended time.
- You suffered a health condition that has been associated with PFAS exposure.
- There was a latent period between the exposure to this chemical and the diagnosis of an associated condition. PFAS builds up in the blood and organs slowly. Cancer and other PFAS-related conditions often take several years to develop. Therefore, if you were exposed to PFAS for the first time a month ago and were diagnosed with cancer today, it is likely that the cancer was not caused by your exposure.
Other criteria can determine whether you can file a successful fire fighting foam lawsuit. Our experienced attorneys can provide additional information.
AFFF Exposure Symptoms
Common Health Conditions Associated With Fire Fighting Foam Exposure
If you believe you have been exposed to AFFF, it is important to monitor yourself for signs of illness. AFFF exposure symptoms can vary depending on the level of exposure and the degree to which you’ve been exposed. The U.S. Separtment of Veterans Affairs lists many different medical conditions that are associated with AFFF exposure. The symptoms you should watch for vary depending on the type of medical condition your AFFF exposure has caused.
A recent study out of Minnesota, published in 2020 in the journal Environmental Health, revealed the first cause-and-effect link of exposure to PFAS through drinking water and the prevalence of infertility, premature birth, and low birth weight babies. The peer-reviewed study examined almost 50,000 births in Minnesota and found that, in the city of Oakdale, the number of low birth weight babies decreased and fertility increased dramatically after the city began filtering the PFAS contamination from public drinking supplies. Oakdale is 12 miles away from the headquarters of 3M, which was a major supplier of fire fighting foam and other PFAS-containing products. From that site, the company discharged PFAS waste for decades, which ultimately contaminated the groundwater and drinking water.
During the years of 2001-2006, babies born in Oakdale were 36 percent more likely to be underweight and 45 percent more likely to be born prematurely. Women of childbearing age in Oakdale were 15 to 25 percent less fertile than women in areas not contaminated by PFAS.
While low birth weight, fertility loss, and premature birth are all associated with fire fighting foam exposure, other health conditions are as well. Here is a look at the health conditions that have been linked to PFAS such as that found in fire fighting foam.
AFFF exposure can lead to kidney cancer. Kidney cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that originates in the kidneys, which are bean-shaped organs that are about the size of one’s fist and are located behind the abdominal organs. Early-stage kidney cancer often produces no symptoms.
- Blood in the urine which may appear pink, red, or cola-colored.
- Pain in the back or side that doesn’t go away.
- Loss of appetite.
- Unexplained weight loss.
AFFF exposure can also cause testicular cancer. Testicular cancer originates in the testicles, which are located within the scrotum, beneath the penis. This type of cancer generally only appears in one testicle. Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer to be experienced by American males between the ages of 15 to 35.
This highly treatable form of cancer presents with symptoms such as:
- A lump or enlargement of either testicle.
- Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum.
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
- A dull, aching feeling in the abdomen or groin.
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum.
- Back pain.
In 1990, a 3M study revealed that PFOA—one of the PFAS found in fire fighting foam—increases the risk of testicular cancer.
Firefighting foam exposure can cause prostate cancer. The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland in men that produces seminal fluid that nourishes and transports the sperm. This is the most common cancer among men, and often tends to grow slowly.
Prostate cancer often produces no early symptoms. In more advanced stages, the disease may present with warning signs such as:
- Trouble urinating.
- Decreased force in the stream of urine.
- Blood in the semen.
- Discomfort in the pelvic area.
- Bone pain.
- Erectile dysfunction.
In 1992, a former scientist for 3M reported that male workers who were exposed to PFOA had a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is another medical condition caused by AFFF exposure. The pancreas is an organ that releases enzymes that aid in digestion, and also produces hormones that help the body regulate blood sugar. It is located in the lower part of the abdomen, behind the stomach. Cancer that originates in the pancreas generally produces no symptoms until it is in advanced stages, often when treatment is least effective.
These symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back.
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
- Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
- Light-colored stools or dark-colored urine.
- Itchy skin.
- A new diagnosis of diabetes, or existing diabetes that suddenly becomes more difficult to control.
- Blood clots.
Breast cancer is another common cancer caused by AFFF exposure. Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that originates in the breast of both females and males.
The breast consists of three main parts:
- Lobules: Glands that produce milk in the breasts of females.
- Ducts: Tubes within the breasts of women that carry milk to the nipple.
- Connective tissue: The fibrous and fatty tissue that surrounds the lobules and ducts, holding them in place. While this is a less common area for cancer to form in women, this is the area where breast cancer always forms in men.
The symptoms of breast cancer vary widely from person to person, and some people have no symptoms at all.
For others, symptoms of breast cancer caused by AFFF exposure can include:
- A new lump in the breast or armpit.
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of the skin of the breast.
- Redness or flaky skin on the areola, which is the colored nipple area of the breast.
- A newly inverted nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than milk.
- Any change in the size or shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related condition in which a woman has high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, such as the liver or kidneys. Left untreated, this condition can lead to serious complications for both the mother and the child. Preeclampsia generally appears after 20 weeks of gestation.
In addition to high blood pressure that may appear suddenly or slowly increase over time, preeclampsia presents with other symptoms such as:
- Excess protein in the urine.
- Severe headaches.
- Changes in vision, such as temporary blindness, blurred vision, and light sensitivity.
- Upper abdominal pain, usually beneath the ribs on the right side.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Decreased urine output.
- Decreased levels of platelets in the blood.
- Impaired liver function.
- Shortness of breath resulting in fluid buildup in the lungs.
Except for the skin, the liver is the body’s largest organ. It is located beneath the ribs on the right side, just under the right lung. The liver’s primary function is to break down and store many of the nutrients that are absorbed from the intestines. It also produces clotting factors that keep a person from bleeding too much after an injury and breaks down alcohol, drugs, and toxins in the blood so that they can pass from the body through urine or stool. Like other types of cancer, liver cancer generally produces no symptoms until the later stages, when it has spread to other organs either regionally or distantly.
The symptoms of liver cancer include:
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss.
- Feeling full after a small meal.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- An enlarged liver or spleen, which is felt as fullness beneath the right (liver) or left (spleen) ribs.
- Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade.
- Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen.
- Yellowed skin or eyes as a result of jaundice.
According to documents compiled by the Environmental Working Group, a DuPont toxicologist put out the warning in 1961 that laboratory tests indicated that PFAS enlarged the livers of rats and rabbits. Five years later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declined a DuPont petition to use PFAS as a food additive, citing studies that revealed that the chemicals caused damage to the liver. An additional study by DuPont in 1973 showed liver damage as a result of PFAS exposure through food packaging.
Bladder cancer originates in the bladder, which is a hollow, muscular organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine. Most bladder cancers are discovered in the earlier stages, when treatment is most effective. However, this type of cancer has a high likelihood of returning, even after early treatments were successful.
Bladder cancer presents with symptoms such as:
- Blood in the urine that can appear bright red or cola-colored.
- Frequent urination.
- Painful urination
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the immune system, with abnormal cell growth appearing in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, or bone marrow. Warning signs of this illness are often similar to the symptoms of other diseases.
Those signs include:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, groin, or neck that are painless.
- Shortness of breath.
- Night sweats.
- Weight loss.
In 1978, 3M animal tests revealed that PFAS exposure resulted in damage to the spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow.
Leukemia is cancer in the body’s blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Leukemia often involves the body’s white blood cells, which serve the important purpose of fighting off infection. There are many types of leukemia, with varying symptoms.
Generally, the warning signs that would cause a doctor to want to test a patient for leukemia after AFFF exposure include:
- Fever or chills.
- Persistent fatigue and weakness.
- Frequent or severe infections.
- Unintended weight loss.
- Swollen lymph nodes or an enlarged liver or spleen.
- Recurring nosebleeds and easy bruising or bleeding throughout the body.
- Small red spots on the skin.
- Night sweats.
- Bone pain or tenderness.
Colorectal cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that originates in the colon or rectum. This type of cancer often begins with small, noncancerous clumps of cells, known as polyps, that produce few, if any symptoms. When cancerous cells begin to develop, they rarely produce symptoms until the disease has spread to other organs.
Symptoms can include:
- A persistent change in bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhea, or a change in the consistency of the stool.
- Bleeding from the rectum or blood appearing in the stool.
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, including cramps, gas, or pain.
- A feeling that the bowel has not emptied.
- Unexplained weight loss.
Reduced Immune Response
Numerous studies have been conducted to better understand the correlation between exposure to certain types of PFAS—including the type found in fire fighting foam—and a reduced immune response. These studies indicate that children who are exposed to PFAS have reduced antibody production after vaccination, including vaccinations commonly used to protect children from diptheria, tetanus, and measles. Adults exposed to PFAS have also been found to have a decreased antibody production to vaccines, including flu vaccinations.
The studies also suggest that PFAS exposure results in other immune system issues, including a higher risk of autoimmune disorders, hypersensitive immune systems that result in conditions such as asthma, and a decreased ability to fight off common illnesses such as colds or stomach infections.
In 1983, 3M noted that it was concerned about the potential harm to the immune system caused by exposure to PFAS.
Located in the lower front part of the neck, the thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that affect almost all of the metabolic processes in the body, including metabolism and blood sugar regulation. These hormones also influence involuntary responses such as heart rate and the regulation of body temperature. In children, thyroid hormones control brain development and the body’s growth.
Symptoms that indicate that a person’s thyroid is not functioning properly include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold.
- Dry skin.
- Weight gain.
- Puffy face.
- Muscle weakness.
- Elevated blood cholesterol level.
- Tender, stiff, or aching muscles, or pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints.
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods.
- Thinning hair.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Impaired memory.
- An enlarged thyroid gland, which is known as a goiter.
If You Were Exposed to PFAS and Now You’re Sick, We Want to Talk to You
Companies have the responsibility to ensure that the products they manufacture and distribute do not pose unreasonable risks to consumers. For years, several companies knew the dangers of PFAS exposure and yet continued to manufacture products that contained these toxins.
The experienced firefighting foam attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are devoted to assisting workers and others who have been exposed to PFAS and now are struggling with an associated health condition such as those listed above in recovering compensation for the expenses and emotional impacts that the illness has caused. Contact us for a free case review and guidance as to your legal options.
FAQs about PFAS Exposure From Firefighting Foam
Those who are struggling with a serious medical condition after being exposed to PFAS through working with fire fighting foam, working at a manufacturing plant that produced PFAS-containing products, or by living near an area where this foam was regularly used for training or emergencies often have a lot of questions about the process of recovering damages through a personal injury lawsuit. Here are the answers to some of the questions we hear the most.
If the military knew fire fighting foam was dangerous, why did they continue to use it?
As explained by the Air Force, the need to provide fire protection at airbases and airports is a priority for the military. AFFF provides a superior ability to extinguish hydrocarbon fires and to protect structures that have been exposed to flammable fuels from igniting. Until 2015, there was not a more environmentally responsible product available on the Department of Defense’s list of qualified fire fighting agents.
If I was exposed to PFAS through the military’s use of fire fighting foam, shouldn’t I sue the military?
The military was a consumer of AFFF, not a manufacturer or distributor. This means the government is not legally liable for the health issues that PFAS exposure from these products cause. The companies who produced and distributed the product, despite repeated studies—often conducted by their own scientists—indicating the hazards of PFAS, bear legal liability for physical harm caused.
What is multi-district litigation and can I join the AFFF MDL?
Multi-district litigation is a way that the U.S. District Court system relieves the burden of multiple cases that feature the same defendants and similar claims. Unlike a class action, in which the cases are consolidated for the duration of the proceedings, MDLs only consolidate the cases for the pre-trial and discovery phases, returning each case that does not settle back to the district where they originated.
The AFFF MDL is being handled by the District of South Carolina and currently involves around 500 cases. To join the MDL, your local attorney will need to file your case with the South Carolina District.
How do I prove that my cancer was related to PFAS exposure?
In personal injury cases, you are not required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your physical harm was a direct result of someone else’s negligent actions. Instead, you are required to show through a preponderance of the evidence that “more likely than not” your illness was related to your exposure.
To show this, you will need to prove:
- You were exposed to high levels of PFAS either through your occupation or because you lived in an area where soil or water was contaminated.
- You acquired a medical condition that has been linked to exposure to the type of PFAS that is found in fire fighting foam.
- There was a latency period of several years between exposure and the appearance of symptoms or diagnosis of your illness.
You should be aware that you will also have to meet the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim. This is a deadline that states place on a person’s ability to file a legal claim seeking compensation. If you miss the deadline, you can’t recover damages. In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally four years after the date the injury occurred or the date in which the injury was discovered. Because the “injury” in AFFF cases is cancer or another health condition that resulted from exposure that could have occurred years or even decades earlier, the date of diagnosis is when the clock starts running in this type of case.
How does PFAS exposure from fire fighting foam occur?
PFAS exposure can occur through:
- Coming in direct contact with the foam through your occupation. This is particularly true if you were not wearing protective gear when the contact occurred.
- Consuming food that was grown in soil where AFFF contamination occurred, such as parcels of land adjacent to a military base or airport.
- Drinking water that came from sources that have been contaminated by fire fighting foam in the soils near the water source or by contaminated groundwater flowing into the source. It bears noting that water does not break down these chemicals, and PFAS can be carried to a water source several miles from the point of the initial release.
- Eating fish or other animals who have been exposed to PFAS through contaminated waterways or soil.
If PFOS-containing fire fighting foams were no longer produced after the early 2000s, why is this product still being used?
Legacy fire fighting foams containing PFOS have a shelf-life of up to 25 years if stored unopened, in the original air-tight container, and stored at a temperature between 35-120 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that if someone purchased AFFF in the late 1990s, before 3M and other companies agreed to stop producing it, some of the products could find their way into use.
Is the AFFF MDL in South Carolina the only legal action being pursued against these companies?
No. Many personal injury lawsuits are not part of the MDL. Additionally, in 2020, a class-action lawsuit was filed in New York by at least 100 firefighters. The lead plaintiff in this case is a firefighter who has been employed since 1998 and was diagnosed with testicular cancer following years of exposure to AFFF.
The defendants in the class action include:
- Buckeye Fire Equipment
- Chemguard Inc.
- National Foam
- Angus International Safety Group, Ltd.
- Angus Fire Armour Corporation
- Tyco Fire Products
- Kidde-Fenwal, Inc.
- Kidde PLC, Inc.
- UTC Fire & Securities Medical Corp.
- United Technologies Corp.
- Chubb Fire Ltd.
- Fire Service Plus, Inc.
- Dow DuPont, Inc.
The four causes of action listed in this class action include negligence, failure to warn, and defective design. The plaintiffs are seeking $5 million in damages plus interests and court costs, as well as medical monitoring of plaintiffs who have not yet been diagnosed with a disease. It is anticipated that the plaintiffs in this case could grow into the thousands.
My spouse died as a result of cancer. He or she worked in the military and was exposed to fire fighting foam. Can I sue?
It is impossible to tell you whether you have a case without more details about your spouse’s exposure and illness. However, generally speaking, you can recover compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Some of the damages you can recover through this type of claim include:
- The cost of services and support that the deceased provided to you.
- Any medical or funeral expenses that you paid for.
- Loss of companionship, comfort, and guidance.
- Loss of net accumulations to the estate that the deceased would have been expected to accrue if he or she had survived.
What is the federal government doing to prevent PFAS exposure?
The military has begun phasing out the use of long-chain PFAS in favor of a product that is less toxic to people and animals. The Environmental Protection Agency has begun the process of regulating PFOA and PFOS—the chemicals found in fire fighting foam—and has developed validation procedures for testing PFAS contamination levels in drinking water. The EPA has also announced the availability of funding for research on managing PFAS in agriculture. Numerous federal agencies are studying the effects of PFAS exposure through drinking water.
I have heard that PFAS are “forever chemicals.” What does that mean?
The roughly 5,000 or so chemical compounds that fall under the broad umbrella of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are often referred to as “forever chemicals” that share a common carbon-fluorine bond that is among the strongest bonds in all organic chemistry, and is generally impervious to environmental elements like heat, water, and sunlight. What this means is that once these chemicals enter the ecosystem, they are here to stay. Various types of PFAS can take years, centuries, or even millennia to break down.
What occupations place a person at a high risk of PFAS exposure from fire fighting foam?
The obvious answer to this question is firefighters who train and work with fire suppression agents regularly. This includes both civilian fire departments as well as military firefighting personnel. Other occupations that can result in PFAS exposure from fire fighting foam include civilian and airport military personnel, those who worked at manufacturing plants where PFAS-containing products were produced, and other industries, such as public utilities and oil and gas personnel who must provide fire protection in circumstances where there is both the presence of liquid fuels and ignition sources.
Approximately 75 percent of AFFF use is through the military, while the remaining 25 percent includes municipal airports, refineries, and fuel tank farms. Many civilian users of the project are “fence-line” neighbors to military installations.
How are newer AFFF products different?
Newer AFFF products contain shorter carbon chains, which break down more quickly than the long-chained legacy AFFF and produce fewer toxins to contaminate the ground, air, and water. In addition to these C6 offerings, there are also new fluorine-free foams that have been developed in the past twenty years as concern over AFFF has grown.
If PFAS are “forever chemicals” that remain indefinitely in the environment, how are contaminated sites cleaned up?
The cleanup involved in removing PFAS from groundwater and soil is extremely difficult and costly.
Possible approaches include:
- Excavating contaminated soils and sediments and disposing of them offsite or finding an acceptable way to reuse them.
- Treating the area with a commercial product that mixes clay and activated carbon with other reagents to temporarily stabilize soils and prevent them from leaching PFAS.
- Ex situ technologies to treat ground and surface water.
If the MDL is in the South Carolina District, do I have to live or travel to South Carolina to participate?
No. Your attorney will handle any necessary appearances. It is important to remember that only the pre-trial and discovery phases of the legal process are being conducted through the MDL in South Carolina. Once those processes are complete, individual cases will be returned to their originating district.
What sort of evidence is needed in an AFFF lawsuit?
You need to have proof of significant exposure to PFAS, including the dates during which this exposure occurred. This can be demonstrated through occupational records or even through the testimony of former coworkers or others who are aware of your whereabouts when the exposure occurred. You will also need medical records showing your diagnosis, the treatments you have received, and your prognosis.
Additional necessary evidence is needed to prove the damages you have incurred as a result of the illness you acquired through your PFAS exposure. This can include pay stubs and other employment information, bills and receipts for expenses such as medical treatment, prescription medication, and the costs of hiring someone to perform household or personal care services that you can’t do for yourself as a result of your illness.
Do I need an attorney to file a lawsuit over PFAS exposure from fire fighting foam?
It is wise that you have an attorney to assist you in the legal process of recovering damages resulting from your PFAS exposure. Personal injury lawsuits are complex on their own, and can be even more complex if they’re part of an MDL.
In addition to having the ability to leverage your attorney’s knowledge and experience with this type of case, an attorney can also provide you with other services, including:
- A determination of all of the liable parties and all insurance resources that can be used to compensate you.
- A valuation of your case that is based on the expenses and impacts you have incurred.
- Timely filing of all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction.
- Skilled negotiation with the at-fault party in an attempt to obtain a fair settlement on your behalf.
- Attendance and representation of your case at all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
Let us help you understand your legal options. Contact us today for more information.
What to Do If You Have Been Exposed to PFAS from Fire Fighting Foam
For decades, aqueous film-forming foam was the fire suppression product of choice for many military installations and airports around the U.S. It was widely used by civilian fire departments as well as industries in which individuals work with highly flammable liquid fuels, such as the oil and gas industry. Despite studies that indicated that the buildup of PFAS chemicals from the foam in the body could cause serious health issues, it was only in the early 2000s when several major companies stated that they would no longer manufacture it in the U.S.
Nearly 20 years later, individuals who have been exposed to fire fighting foam are now acquiring the health conditions that have long been associated with these chemicals. If you were exposed to PFAS from fire fighting foam and have been diagnosed with one or more of the health conditions associated with exposure, read on for more information about what happens next and the steps you need to take.
If You Have Not Yet Been Diagnosed…
Not everyone who is exposed to PFAS through fire fighting foam will ultimately end up being diagnosed with a PFAS-associated illness. Those who do will likely not get the diagnosis for several years, or even decades. If you experienced significant exposure to fire fighting foam through your occupation and were not diagnosed with an illness, you may be diagnosed in the future.
Be vigilant about having regular physical examinations. Talk about your exposure with your doctor and discuss possible screenings that can lead to an early diagnosis, as the treatment options for most PFAS-related illnesses are more effective in the early stages of the disease.
After Diagnosis: Do Your Research
Being diagnosed with cancer or another serious health condition is a terrifying situation in which the patient feels little control. Learning as much as you can about your disease not only provides you with the information you need to make decisions about your treatment, but also gives you back a little bit of the control you have lost.
While not the only source of information about your disease, your doctor can help you make sense of the diagnosis. It is important that you feel comfortable asking questions and confident that your doctor will provide you with answers. Many patients find it helpful to write the questions they’d like to ask down in a notepad to take to the appointment, as this keeps your thoughts organized.
It also can be helpful to bring a trusted friend or family member to your appointments with you. This gives you another mind that is thinking about the information that you need to know, and allows you to focus on what the doctor is saying while your family member or friend takes notes that you can refer to later.
Some questions that you should consider asking your doctor include:
- What kind of cancer do I have, and where is it located?
- What treatments are available for the type of cancer I have?
- Are there any more tests that need to be completed before treatment begins?
- How long will treatment last? What are the common side effects experienced with this treatment?
- What are my treatment options? What are the pros and cons of the treatments that are available to me?
- What is the goal of my treatment? Is the plan to cure the cancer or to control the symptoms?
- How will we know if the treatment is working?
- What kind of changes will I need to make at work, home, and during leisure time while undergoing treatment?
- Are there foods that I should or should not eat during treatment? Is it safe to consume alcohol while undergoing treatment?
- Will there be other specialists involved in my care? Who is my point of contact on my cancer team?
- What is the likelihood of the cancer returning after treatment? How will a recurrence of my cancer be handled?
- What are the names of the drugs that will be used to treat me? What are they used for?
Remember that if you can’t get information about your diagnosis from your doctor, or you are curious about whether other treatments are available, it is perfectly acceptable to seek a second opinion. In fact, your treatment team can usually assist you by giving you a referral so that another qualified doctor can examine you.
Surround Yourself With Support
Often, cancer treatments can make a person feel even worse than the disease itself. Not to mention, having a serious illness requires many lifestyle changes. Suddenly, you find yourself feeling awful with a life that is completely different than what it was before the diagnosis, and unsure as to what your future holds. It’s a lonely place to be, and one of the main things you can do to take care of yourself is to let other people in.
Talking with friends and family members about your diagnosis can be uncomfortable.
Prepare for the conversation beforehand. Here are some tips for that preparation:
- Make a list of the people you want to tell in person. These are close family members such as parents, siblings, or children as well as your closest friends. For others, such as distant relatives and acquaintances, you may appoint a family member to make contact and relieve some of the burdens of sharing the news. Obviously, you will need to let someone know at work, particularly if your treatment is going to require you to take a leave of absence from work or to miss work to attend medical appointments.
- Think about how much you want to share. This will likely vary, depending on who you are telling. Some people will be satisfied with only receiving the bare essentials of your diagnosis and when you start treatment. Others will want to know all of the details of your stage, prognosis, and the treatment options you are pursuing.
- Think about the type of help you are going to need. When people learn of your illness, many of them will offer help. While you are undergoing treatment, you will likely need to take them up on it. However, they can only help if you tell them what you need.
If you face this without a strong support system of family and friends or you feel the need to communicate with others who are going through a similar situation, speak with your physician about support groups for those suffering from your condition. If you are feeling depressed, be sure to let your treatment team know so they can determine whether the depression is situational or could be caused by the medications you are taking.
Many people find mental health counseling helps them to cope with the stress and uncertainty of their diagnosis.
Understand the Common Types of Treatment Used for Your Condition
There are several common types of treatments that are used to treat many types of cancer. Although your physician and others on your treatment team understand these types of treatments, their likelihood of success, and common side effects experienced by patients undergoing those treatments, it is important that you also understand them.
Here is a glimpse at some of the treatments that are often used to treat cancer.
- Surgery: Often, surgery is used when the cancer is still in an early stage and localized in one area of the body. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancer from your body entirely. This may involve the removal of an organ, the removal of the tumor, or the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissues. Surgery carries risks and requires a recovery period during which you will likely need help with household tasks, driving, and other routine responsibilities.
- Radiation therapy: In radiation therapy, strong beams of energy are used to destroy cancer cells or to damage them so that they stop growing. This can occur either through an external radiation beam, internally by placing a radioactive source directly into the body, or systemic through the use of radiation drugs taken by mouth or through an IV.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment involves the use of strong drugs given by mouth or injection. Generally, more than one chemo drug is used, and the goals of chemo depend on the type of cancer you have and how far it has progressed. This includes chemo used to cure the cancer; to keep it from spreading; to slow the growth of tumors; to relieve some of the symptoms of cancer; to shrink a tumor for later surgical removal; or to lower the risk of the cancer returning after surgery.
- Immunotherapy: This type of treatment involves using the body’s own immune system by boosting it or using man-made proteins to attack the cancer cells.
- Targeted therapies: The problem with traditional treatments such as chemo is that they kill good cells along with bad ones. Targeted therapy involves drugs that are designed to attack a specific part of the cancer cell that is different from that of a healthy cell.
This is not an exhaustive list of the therapies you will potentially undergo. There are many emerging therapies and clinical trials that can also be included in your treatment. Also, the above-listed treatments are not all used for every type of cancer. However, it is not unusual for cancer teams to offer a combination of more than one of those treatments.
Organize the Documents Related to Your Illness and Expenses
Filing a legal claim to recover damages related to your PFAS-associated health condition requires a lot of evidence. You will not only need to provide evidence of your exposure to fire fighting foam—such as past employment records or testimony from former or current co-workers—but also information about your diagnosis and the expenses and impacts you have incurred.
Many people find that accordion-style folders are helpful to keep all of this information together and accessible. Even if you ultimately decide not to pursue legal action, it will not hurt to have the documents pertaining to your illness in one convenient place to refer to in the future. However, if you fail to prepare for legal action by keeping copies of all pertinent documents, it will be much harder to do so if you change your mind in the future.
Pay attention to the time limits associated with filing a personal injury claim. Florida, for example, requires you to file your claim within four years of the day on which doctors diagnosed you.
Speak With an Experienced Attorney
Personal injury lawsuits are complex, and firefighting foam lawsuits are no exception. Those involving product liability and multi-district litigation are particularly complicated, requiring substantial resources, time, and experience.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are united firms with the resources and network of experts necessary for this type of case. Our firm has proudly contributed to class action and MDLs, fighting for the rights of those who have been harmed by dangerous or defective products to be compensated for the damage that was caused.
When it comes to hiring an attorney, many people hesitate because they fear how much an attorney might cost. Our personal injury lawyers provide free consultations to offer legal guidance to prospective clients. Our firefighting foam attorneys also work on a contingency fee basis, so we don’t the client for our services unless we successfully resolve the case, whether through settlement or court judgment.
Between free consultations and contingent fee payment arrangements offered by those practicing personal injury law, anyone who has been physically harmed by the negligence of another person or entity can receive the help they need, regardless of their level of income.
The Dolman Law Group works with local counsel in any jurisdiction outside Florida for the purpose of filing lawsuits in jurisdictions wherein we are not licensed. Thus, we will follow each State’s ethical rules to ensure a local attorney is involved.
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