What is AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam)?
Aqueous film-forming foam, while very effective in extinguishing class B fires, contains a group of dangerous chemicals that are known as PFAS.
As a group of artificial chemicals, PFAS were initially manufactured for the Manhattan Project, whose purpose was to create the nuclear bomb for World War II.
Fluorine gas, the most reactive and the most electronegative of all the elements was used to separate uranium for the manufacturing of nuclear bombs.
Minnesota is Ground Zero for the contamination with PFAS which is occurring in the entire country. The chemicals are in the blood of everyone by now. In 1950, the company 3M bought the facility in Minnesota to continue manufacturing PFAS. They also began including PFAS in aqueous film-forming foam, also known as AFFF, which all firefighters have since been using to extinguish class B fires. The company was also selling the chemicals to DuPont, another notorious business. By virtue of the ability to repel oil, and stains, as well as to withstand temperatures of 1,700 degrees, PFAS soon became a commercial success. However, the chemicals are non-biodegradable and thereby persist in the environment and in the human body once inhaled or ingested, being able to lead to the development of serious diseases such as kidney cancer, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer.
Unsurprisingly, 3M has been aware all along of the devastating effects of exposure to PFAS on the human body, but it chose to subvert science and cover up the scientific evidence supporting the toxicity of the chemicals. In 2000, the company stopped manufacturing PFAS. Nevertheless, before it ceased the production of the chemicals, it has been gaining almost one-half a billion dollars every year from selling PFAS. One piece of evidence that 3M was aware of the toxicity of PFAS from the beginning was the label they gave DuPont when selling the chemicals to the company, label which stated "CANCER: WARNING: Contains a chemical which can cause cancer".
Serious AFFF exposure risks - qualifying diseases
Health organizations such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Cancer Society (ACS), and U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) have found that certain PFAS may affect the immune system and increase the risk of cancer. Our industrial hygienists and medical research team came to the same conclusion.
The EPA has classified the chemicals in the foam products as "emerging contaminants", meaning that the health hazards and environmental risks associated with AFFF are significant. Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified PFOA as a "possible carcinogenic to humans", based on evidence of bladder cancer from studies in factory workers exposed to PFOA. Exposure to AFFF any time as a firefighter after 1960 might be sufficient to become eligible. Obviously, the better cases will have more exposure, but the toxicity of the chemicals is such that even minimal direct exposure on a semi-regular basis can cause harm.
Firefighters were never told about the health consequences of AFFF and no one made much effort to stop it from escaping into the environment. After years of exposure, PFAS contaminated and accumulated in the blood and body of many firefighters, family members, and people living near military bases in the states where AFFF was used.
As a result of exposure to AFFF-containing PFAS and the accumulation of these toxic chemicals in their blood, many people have developed cancers.
International studies on firefighters confirmed that they are at increased risk of testicular cancer, which can even be considered an occupational disease for firefighters. Besides accumulating in the blood of exposed individuals, these man-made chemicals accumulate throughout life especially in the liver and kidneys, increasing the risk of getting cancer and other serious diseases. The following are the diseases qualifying for filing a claim:
Who can be harmed by the fire suppressant AFFF?
The most studied toxic chemicals in AFFF are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Originally produced by 3M, these compounds have been used in manufacturing all kinds of chemical products.
Although efficient, PFAS have unique properties that cause them to persist, accumulate in the blood and body of people exposed to them, are also extremely persistent in the environment, and likely have toxic effects on human health.
Those most affected by exposure to AFFF are firefighters who worked in:
- Firefighting training areas
- Aircraft crash sites
- Military airport hangars
The U.S. military used AFFF during firefighter training and during emergencies. AFFF containing PFAS has also been used in various ways by the U.S. Navy, and other branches of the military, since 1960.
Therefore, individuals at the greatest risk of harm from AFFF are the firefighters who use it, Air Force personnel who were directly exposed to it, those who manufacture the foam, and people living near military bases where AFFF was used.
Firefighting foam and toxic exposure on military bases
What is most concerning about AFFF-impacted sites is the fact that PFASs have contaminated military sites and surrounding communities. In Alabama for example, people are familiar with the Dupont litigation regarding the environmental pollution from the facility manufacturing PFAS.
Recently, more than 40 classes of PFAS were identified at essentially every AFFF-impacted military site that was investigated.
Pending claims allege that the liable companies have each designed, manufactured, and distributed AFFF containing PFAS in such a way as to cause the contamination and the resultant bioaccumulation of PFAS in the blood and body of many individuals. AFFFs containing PFAS have contaminated the soil at various military bases, airports, and other sites where the foams were used, eventually causing a wide range of health risks, property damage, and/or other economic losses.