Firefighters risk their lives to protect citizens’ safety and well-being, and now it turns out they may also risk their lives with the toxic materials they are tasked with using. Introduced in the 1950s, chemical-based firefighting foam has been used to extinguish jet fuel and heavy petroleum fires. Known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), firefighting foam creates a chemical blanket that cuts off fuel from the oxygen that it needs to continue burning.
A widely used firefighting foam long ago deemed effective by fire fighters, military and civilian businesses and airports has been linked to toxic water contamination and property damage in Ohio and throughout the nation. 3M and other companies have manufactured Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) as a firefighting suppressant.
The product is allegedly hazardous and can severely contaminate large swaths of land and water supplies. AFFF was sold to the United States Military as well as commercial airports.
The effectiveness may not be in question, however AFFF contains toxic perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and adjacent properties nearby firefighting exercises have been contaminated, spawning AFFF property damage lawsuits.
The Lyon Firm represents plaintiffs nationwide and files AFFF property damage lawsuits against 3M Company and other negligent manufacturers for ground water contamination from the toxins in the AFFF foam.
Toxic PFOA and PFOS are used in AFFF firefighting foams, risking soil contamination and water contamination throughout a large area of the country.
Bowing to safety concerns and AFFF property damage lawsuits, the U.S. Air Force recently replaced foam in fire vehicles and older Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) stockpiles. The new foam is free from perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and contains only trace amounts of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
AFFF has been used throughout the U.S. by public firefighting departments and military outfits, including at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Personal injuries have been reported related to firefighting foams, including chemical burns and respiratory illnesses.
The contamination concerns, however, and the AFFF property damage lawsuits may have urged the base to discontinue the 3M firefighting foam altogether.
In the Wright-Patterson area, two drinking water wells were closed due to suspected AFFF groundwater contamination. Perfluoro-octane sulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfloro-octanoic Acid (PFOA) are toxins that can easily contaminate soil and groundwater supplies and has prompted consumer safety experts and product liability lawyers to investigate property damages in earnest.
Toxicology studies show that PFCs can be absorbed after oral exposure and may accumulate in the human body. When leaked into a water supply, perfluorinated compounds can cause a wide range of health risks, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disruption, and liver damage, not to mention the loss of value on private properties. PFCs are water soluble and mobile in groundwater and the environment.
Two PFAS compounds, including perfluorooctane acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), may be present in firefighting AFFF solutions. Certain PFAS can accumulate in the human body for long periods of time and may have negative health effects like a risk of thyroid disease and testicular, kidney and bladder cancers.
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.
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:
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:
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.