Firefighters exposed to AFFF have a nearly doubled risk of developing leukemia
Given their toxicity, mobility, and bioaccumulation potential, constant exposure to PFAS will cause these dangerous chemicals to accumulate in the blood to very high levels.
In some cases, this can act as a favorable factor in the development of blood diseases, including leukemia.
A number of other adverse human health effects have been found to be associated with PFAS (per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances) which may result from certain levels of exposure.
What is leukemia and how does it relate to PFAS?
Leukemia is commonly known as cancer of the white blood cells, but this view only accounts for the most common form of the disease. When it is the result of AFFF exposure, leukemia has a latency of 5 years. Leukemia affects the body tissue involved in the production of blood, such as the bone marrow but also the lymphatic system, spleen, and thymus gland.
The causes of leukemia are not yet known, but it is suspected to involve a genetic predisposition triggered by a number of environmental risk factors.
Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) also called firefighting foam contains chemicals that belong to the PFAS class, which are carcinogens. Per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are considered emerging contaminants, and although the mechanism by which these substances damage the body is not fully understood, they have been linked to a number of cancers. PFAS are also called forever chemicals as these remain in the environment and in our blood for many years giving rise to serious health problems including acute myeloid leukemia.
Although knowing your PFAS blood level cannot predict future health effects, a blood test for PFAS exposure indicates the levels of specific PFASs in your body at the time you were tested.
Firefighters' blood contains high levels of PFAS, research says
Environmental officials are tracking an emerging threat linked to the firefighting foam used at military installations and airports. Service members and military families around military bases have been exposed to PFAS because the Defense Department uses foam containing the chemicals for military exercises. Because of their multiple fluorine-carbon bonds, PFAS can persist for decades in the environment and for years on end inside the human body - hence their moniker "forever chemicals".
With inherent chemical stability and slow elimination from the human body, perfluorinated compounds accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time leading to adverse health outcomes. A recent Italian ecological mortality study found that workers who have been exposed to PFAS chemicals on the job, such as firefighters and plant operators, were more likely to develop leukemia than a control group. PFAS can permeate through the skin and into the human body from various pieces of equipment treated with the substance. A study conducted in 2015 established that Southern California firefighters had three times higher levels of PFAS in their blood when compared to the general population.
Eligibility for AFFF exposure related leukemia claims
People who were exposed to PFAS-based firefighting foam on their jobs such as airport workers, firefighters, and military personnel are at risk of developing leukemia later in life. People who worked in the following occupational settings are particularly at high risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a result of exposure to AFFF:
- Firefighting training sites
- Aircraft crash sites
- Military airport hangars
- Chemical plants
- Oil refineries and bulk fuel storage facilities
- Flammable liquid storage facilities
If you are a civilian or military firefighter who was exposed to AFFF and subsequently developed leukemia, you are entitled to compensation, which our attorneys, who specialize in toxic exposure cases, will help you recover.