Why are these cases important?
Toxic exposure cases help empower employees to fight for their right to be protected, satisfactorily informed, and to stay safe. They also bring awareness to challenge and higher the expectations of companies who are not serving their employees justly.
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The chemicals used in firefighting foam may be linked to cancers, according to major health organizations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified PFAS as “emerging contaminants”, meaning they are likely dangerous to human health.
Cancers associated with PFAS include:
- Kidney (renal) cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
PFAS and AFFF may be orally ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Personnel at fire departments that use firefighting foams with PFAS/PFOA/PFOS should practice the following controls to stay safe:
- Replace AFFF stocks with fluorine-free foam solutions
- Contain and manage AFFF and contaminated water runoff
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) when handling AFFF
- Properly remove and bag contaminated PPE prior to transporting
- Clean contaminated PPE and SCBA before reusing
- Shower within one hour of AFFF exposure
Those who served as airport or military firefighters are at high risk of PFAS exposure. Until 2018, the Federal Airport Administration (FAA) required airports to use PFA-containing foam, which followed U.S. Navy guidelines.
The U.S. Navy and other military branches have used firefighting foam since the 1960s because it could put out jet fuel fires. The military is currently phasing out the use of certain PFAS.
There are two classes of firefighting foam:
Class A Foam: Used to extinguish Class A materials, such as wood, paper, and brush is widely used by many fire departments for structural firefighting using compressed air foam systems.
Class B Foam (also called AFFF): Used to extinguish Class B materials, which include gasoline, oil, and jet fuel. AFFF is usually created by combining foaming agents with fluorinated surfactants.
It may not be easy to tell if the foam you have contains PFAS because these chemicals are not required to be reported on any safety data sheets (SDS), as they currently are not considered a hazardous substance. PFAS may not be listed under any active ingredients list, either.
The best thing to do is to note the brand and manufacturer of the foam and contact the manufacturer or an attorney to see if PFAS is used in its production.
The Lyon Firm is experienced in workplace toxic exposure lawsuits and files claims on behalf of workers nationwide who have developed illnesses or diseases following toxic firefighting foam exposure.