Firefighting foam has been used for decades as a vital tool in extinguishing fires. However, recent studies have linked firefighting foam to various types of cancer, raising concerns about the health risks posed to firefighters who use it.
This article will examine the dangers of firefighting foam, the legal response, the impact on firefighters, advocacy for change, and the need for continued awareness and action to protect firefighters from this silent killer.
What Is Firefighting Foam?
Firefighting foam is a critical tool used to extinguish fires, particularly those involving flammable liquids and fuels. The foam contains a mix of water, foam concentrate, and air, which forms a blanket-like layer on the surface of the fire, smothering it and preventing re-ignition.
However, many firefighting foams contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals, which are highly persistent and can accumulate in the body over time. Recent studies have linked PFAS exposure to an increased risk of various types of cancer, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
The Dangers of Firefighting Foam
Firefighting foam, also known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), has been a staple of firefighting for decades due to its effectiveness in extinguishing fires. However, recent studies have linked the use of AFFF to various health problems, including cancer.
According to ConsumerNotice, to create a foamy mixture that can extinguish fires and form a film, AFFF includes per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. Since the 1950s, PFAS has been utilized by manufacturers of industrial and consumer goods.
The most frequent PFAS chemicals discovered in AFFF are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). These chemicals are human-made and are not naturally present in the environment.
PFAS chemicals have been linked to various types of cancer, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancer. Firefighters are at particular risk of exposure to PFAS chemicals due to the nature of their work.
The Legal Response
As the dangers of firefighting foam become more apparent, lawsuits and legal actions have been taken against firefighting foam manufacturers. The firefighter foam cancer lawsuit claims that the manufacturers were aware of the risks associated with PFAS chemicals in their products but failed to warn firefighters of the potential dangers.
As a result, several companies have faced litigation and settlements, including 3M, DuPont, and Chemours. In addition, some states and municipalities have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers to recover costs associated with cleaning up contaminated water supplies.
TorHoerman Law, LLC (THL), a law firm representing firefighter foam lawsuits, emphasizes the crucial role of evidence in AFFF lawsuits. All possible documentation that proves exposure to firefighting foam must be provided to personal injury lawyers to strengthen the case.
The law firm states that evidence in AFFF Cancer Lawsuits may include medical records, cancer diagnosis documents, employment records, AFFF exposure history, witness testimony, and any other information validating exposure to firefighting foam.
Impact on Firefighters
According to The Guardian’s report, in December 2005, Wayne Crossman, a 43-year-old firefighter from London, was one of the 250 firefighters dispatched to the Buncefield oil depot in Hemel Hempstead.
The explosion of the first oil tank was so powerful that it measured 2.4 on the Richter scale and caused 20 more tanks to ignite. In total, over 250,000 liters of firefighting foam were used to put out the fire, leading to significant amounts of contaminated runoff.
Although the cause of Crossman’s myeloid leukemia is unknown, and there is insufficient evidence to link it to PFAS, he believes that the firefighting foam and personal protective equipment may have caused his illness.
Firefighting foam has had a significant impact on the health and well-being of firefighters. Those who have been diagnosed with cancer as a result of exposure to firefighting foam may face a range of challenges, including the physical and emotional toll of cancer treatment, as well as the financial burden of medical expenses.
Additionally, firefighters may suffer from the psychological effects of dealing with a cancer diagnosis, including anxiety and depression. The impact of firefighting foam on firefighters underscores the need for greater awareness of the risks associated with this substance and for improved safety measures to protect firefighters from exposure.
Advocacy for Change
According to a BBC report, even though most American companies have stopped producing the most well-researched PFAS chemicals, namely PFOS and PFOA, they persist in the environment due to their inability to break down. In 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered that the pollutants could cause damage at levels “much lower than previously understood.”
Advocacy groups and firefighter organizations have been vocal in their push for regulatory changes to address the health risks associated with firefighting foam. They have called for increased testing of PFAS chemicals in the environment and for better protective gear for firefighters to reduce their exposure to these harmful substances.
These groups have also demanded accountability from foam manufacturers, pushing for them to take responsibility for their role in the crisis and compensate the firefighters affected. By advocating for change and raising awareness about the dangers of firefighting foam, these groups hope to protect the health and well-being of firefighters and prevent further harm from being inflicted by these harmful chemicals.
Firefighting foam is a silent killer for firefighters, and the legal response to this issue has been slow. Firefighters are exposed to toxic chemicals every day, but we don’t always know how much harm they’re doing until it’s too late. The first step towards solving this problem is acknowledging that there is one at all.