Exposure to the dangerous chemical PFOA was found to have a positive association with ulcerative colitis
The chemical PFOA belongs to the PFAS category, and a study from the medical journal Environmental Research found it to be the only one in this group to have a link with ulcerative colitis. Unfortunately, PFOA is one of the most common substances in this category, and it is present in nearly every, if not all, AFFF product, so firefighters are inevitably exposed to it on the job.
It is important to note that ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease. A study from Environmental Health Perspectives found a significant association between high blood PFOA levels and ulcerative colitis in a cohort of 32,000 individuals, but not with Crohn's disease, another type of inflammatory bowel disease. A considerably increased risk of ulcerative colitis was also found in a cohort of over 3,000 workers by another research. However, while there is a strong connection between exposure to PFOA and ulcerative colitis, the underlying mechanism is still unclear.
Another recent study from the Journal of Crohn's and Colitis discovered that the amount of PFAS was significantly higher in individuals with ulcerative colitis in comparison with healthy controls or those with Crohn's disease. The findings indicate that PFAS might represent a significant environmental risk factor for ulcerative colitis. Finally, a study from the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology suggests the mechanisms by which PFAS exposure might cause ulcerative colitis, which are:
- PFAS induce a dysfunctional intestinal barrier
- PFAS exposure contributes to ulcerative colitis indirectly by interfering with the bile acids metabolism
- PFAS enter the same enterohepatic circulation as bile acids, and they may impact the absorption of these bile acids in the small intestine
The misdiagnosis rate is high among firefighters exposed to AFFF
Ulcerative colitis is one of the invisible diseases, as it cannot be seen from the outside. While someone may look fine, their intestines are, in fact, inflamed and ulcerated, they may be in excruciating pain, and their immune system is attacking itself. If you are or were a military or civilian firefighter and worry you might have ulcerative colitis, you should look out for the following symptoms and seek medical assistance as soon as possible if you experience any of them:
- abdominal pain and cramps
- rectal bleeding
- urgency to defecate
- inability to defecate, despite the urgency
- diarrhea, often with blood
- unintentional weight loss
If you believe you have ulcerative colitis but were diagnosed with another disease or condition, it is essential to look for a second and even a third medical opinion, as the misdiagnosis rate is high both in firefighters and for ulcerative colitis. Since it belongs to the inflammatory bowel disease category, it can easily be mistaken for the other condition in this group. These are the diseases and medical conditions for which ulcerative colitis in firefighters might be mistaken:
- colon cancer
- bacterial infection
- Chron's disease
- irritable bowel syndrome
- colitis from other causes
- H. pylori infection
- medication reactions
- colon polyps
Not only is a correct diagnosis crucial for your treatment, but also for your compensation eligibility. Only if you are or were a military or civilian firefighter with ulcerative colitis may you be able to file a claim for AFFF exposure. This is the only diagnosis from the inflammatory bowel disease group that qualifies a firefighter for compensation. So, it is extremely important to make sure you have the right diagnosis before seeking legal assistance, as this is the only way our experienced attorneys can help you.
Military firefighters, at greater risk of ulcerative colitis than civilian firefighters
In 1966, the formula for the firefighting foam AFFF was devised by the U.S. Navy and the infamous 3M company, which has manufactured this hazardous fire suppressant and other PFAS-containing products for decades. Today, the toxic chemicals PFAS lurk on roughly 700 military bases across the country, which is the consequence of firefighters and trainees using AFFF excessively. Because this fire suppressant is used to extinguish jet fuel and petroleum fires, which are more common on military bases, these firefighters are more likely to develop ulcerative colitis than civilian firefighters, as the latter typically use AFFF more rarely.
On military bases, PFAS from AFFF can be found on and have been removed from several:
- firefighting training areas
- military airport hangars
- aircraft crash sites
Nevertheless, we provide quality legal assistance to both civilian and military firefighters with ulcerative colitis as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. If you are in this unfortunate situation, do not hesitate to give our resourceful legal team a call, and they will determine whether you can file a claim for AFFF exposure to obtain financial compensation for your unfair suffering.