Firefighters are brave souls who stand between danger and safety. But what if the tools they’ve used to save lives have silently jeopardized their health? AFFF, a firefighting foam, has been a trusted ally for decades, but it hides a troubling secret.
The foam contains chemicals linked to health problems, posing a significant concern for those battling blazes and keeping people safe. If you’ve ever wondered about the hidden dangers of firefighting foam or worried about the health risks, you’re not alone in your concerns.
In this article, you will unwind the complex issue of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) and the lawsuits stemming from its use.
Understanding AFFF and Its Historical Use
AFFF is a special type of foam used to extinguish fires involving flammable liquids like jet fuel or gasoline. It’s known for its ability to create a thin film on the surface of the liquid. It cuts off the oxygen supply and prevents the fire from spreading.
Its effectiveness in dealing with liquid fires has saved lives and protected property. However, like any tool, there can be downsides. AFFF contains certain chemicals, such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have raised concerns due to their potential health and environmental impacts.
Historically, firefighters used AFFF without realizing the long-term consequences of PFAS exposure. The use of AFFF was widespread in military, industrial, and even civilian firefighting operations. As a result, many firefighters unknowingly faced exposure to these chemicals in the line of duty.
Health Concerns Associated with AFFF Exposure
The primary issue revolves around the presence of PFAS in AFFF. PFAS, a category of synthetic chemicals, has been associated with a range of health issues. One significant concern is their potential to gradually accumulate within the human body. This accumulation can result in various health complications, including thyroid disorders, kidney and liver damage, and an elevated risk of developing cancers.
Firefighters often encounter AFFF in their line of duty and are at particular risk due to repeated exposure.
Furthermore, according to the National Cancer Institute, studies were conducted in the workplace and community-based areas. It has shown evidence that high concentrations of these chemicals are linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer in particular.
Compared to the general population, firefighters exposed to firefighting foam on the job have greater PFOA levels. It thereby increased their chance of developing prostate cancer.
Legal Landscape and AFFF Lawsuits
AFFF lawsuits are typically categorized into two types: individual lawsuits and class-action lawsuits. Individual lawsuits are initiated by individuals who attribute their health issues to AFFF exposure. In contrast, class-action lawsuits involve a collective of individuals making similar claims against the same defendants.
Legal actions are primarily directed toward manufacturers of AFFF and sometimes entities that use the foam, such as airports or military installations. Plaintiffs argue that these manufacturers were aware of the potential health risks associated with AFFF but failed to adequately warn or protect users.
Due to these lawsuits, the legal environment has significantly changed in the last two years as PFAS have gained more attention. According to Bloomberg Law research, businesses, including Dynax Corp, Chemguard Inc., and National Foam Inc., are now being sued at a rate similar to DuPont’s. This information emerged from examining over 6,400 PFAS-related claims submitted in federal courts from July 2005 to March 2022.
Factors Contributing to AFFF Lawsuits
The growing awareness of the health risks associated with PFAS chemicals in AFFF has been a significant driver. More research has emerged linking PFAS exposure to health problems like cancer and organ damage. Therefore, individuals and advocacy groups have become more motivated to seek legal action.
Additionally, regulatory oversight has come under scrutiny. Some AFFF lawsuits claim that government agencies should have implemented stricter regulations on using and disposing of firefighting foam containing PFAS. Inadequate regulation and oversight have contributed to the widespread contamination of water sources and environmental damage, further fueling legal actions.
AFFF Lawsuit Settlements and Verdicts
A significant development in the ongoing Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) lawsuits revolves around settlements and verdicts. Many of these legal cases have seen settlements reached between plaintiffs and defendants, including AFFF manufacturers and other entities responsible for AFFF use.
The AFFF lawsuit settlement amounts have exhibited significant variation, contingent on factors like the severity of health problems and the degree of exposure. Additionally, the strength of the evidence presented plays a pivotal role. In certain instances, settlements have been substantial, providing compensation to plaintiffs for medical expenses and their pain and suffering.
However, as per TorHoerman Law, settlement amounts can also be based on cancer diagnosis information. The plaintiff should be able to provide any history relating to the AFFF exposure, including any relevant medical or job record documents. Any further evidence supporting the claim, such as a personal account or witness testimony, may also be used to determine the outcome.
Verdicts in AFFF lawsuits have also garnered attention. Some cases have resulted in favorable verdicts for plaintiffs, holding manufacturers accountable for the health problems caused by their products.
Challenges and Hurdles in AFFF Litigation
One significant challenge is establishing a direct link between AFFF exposure and specific health issues. Proving causation can be complex because it requires scientific evidence and testimony.
Furthermore, legal battles can be lengthy and costly. AFFF lawsuits often involve multiple parties, including manufacturers, users, and affected individuals. These cases can take years to resolve, which can be emotionally and financially draining for plaintiffs.
Thus, the number of pending cases is a challenge on its own. According to Lawsuit Legal News, in the AFFF MDL case, there were a total of 4,173 claims outstanding as of April 2023. The number grew quickly, with 493 additional lawsuits joined in July.
Municipal water pollution claims are included in some of the more than 5,000 pending lawsuits. The CDC has established the National Firefighter Registry for Cancer and encourages all firefighters to register. It enables the tracking and analysis of cancer rates within the firefighter community.
Pursuing Justice: Legal Options and Resources
The initial step involves seeking counsel from a proficient attorney experienced in AFFF litigation. These legal experts can evaluate your case, offer advice, and assist you in navigating the intricate legal procedures.
Many advocacy groups and organizations have emerged to support individuals and communities affected by AFFF. These groups can provide valuable information, emotional support, and resources to help you understand your rights and options.
Class-action lawsuits have also been instrumental in addressing AFFF-related issues on a broader scale. By joining a class-action lawsuit, individuals can collectively pursue justice, potentially leading to more significant settlements or verdicts and increasing awareness of the issue.
Ensure Firefighter and Community Safety
One thing remains clear in the quest for justice concerning AFFF and its health-related issues: the fight is far from over. While challenges exist, individuals and communities affected by AFFF exposure continue to press forward. They seek accountability from manufacturers, users, and those responsible for the widespread contamination of PFAS chemicals.
Ultimately, the goal is not just to hold wrongdoers accountable but to prevent further harm and ensure the safety of firefighters and communities.