How much AFFF exposure can cause cancer in firefighters

Treven Pyles

By Treven Pyles

Posted on October 13th, 2023

Civilian and military firefighters often use AFFF to extinguish fires stemming from combustible and flammable liquids and gases, such as gasoline, alcohol, jet fuel, petroleum, and lacquers. However, if you are a firefighter who uses it, you may wonder how much AFFF exposure is dangerous and can result in cancer.

The fire suppressant AFFF is highly toxic because it contains perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS or "forever chemicals," due to their ability to persist in the environment and the human body for a long time. Once present in the bloodstream, it takes nearly four years for the level of PFAS to go down by half, supposing no additional exposure occurs. Nevertheless, civilian and military firefighters are exposed to these harmful chemicals on a regular basis. Exposure to "forever chemicals" can result in countless health problems, including prostate, testicular, and kidney cancer. Still, if you are a firefighter, you may wonder how much AFFF exposure is too much.

To know how much PFAS you have in your blood as a firefighter, you should undergo a blood test measuring the level of these chemicals. If the PFAS concentration in your blood is between 2 and 20 nanograms per milliliter, you should be concerned about adverse effects. Therefore, firefighters should reduce their "forever chemicals" exposure and be screened for cancer and other health issues they are at high risk for, such as increased cholesterol levels. However, if the PFAS blood concentration falls below 2 nanograms per milliliter, people "are not expected to have adverse health effects," according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Exposure to PFAS from AFFF can result in the following cancers in firefighters who use the firefighting foam regularly:

While up to 98% of Americans have detectable PFAS levels in their blood, civilian and military firefighters working with AFFF usually have dangerous concentrations of "forever chemicals" in their bodies. Tolerable intakes for PFAS could be much lower than scientists previously thought. In 2008, the European Food Safety Authority established levels of tolerable daily intake for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most dangerous chemicals from this class. But currently, the scientific panel recommends lowering these levels drastically. Specifically, it recommends lowering the maximal exposure to PFOS from 150 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day to 13 nanograms per week.

For PFOA, the numbers are even more staggering. The European Food Safety Authority recommends lowering the maximal exposure from 1,500 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day to 6 nanograms per week. Unfortunately, it is impossible for a large portion of the world's population, including firefighters, to stay below the new recommendations of tolerable weekly intakes for PFOS and PFOA. It is nearly impossible to tell how much AFFF exposure can result in cancer, as it varies from firefighter to firefighter, depending on how often they use the fire suppressant. Nonetheless, it usually takes several years for exposure to AFFF to cause cancer.

It is also important to note that cancer generally occurs within a few years to over a decade from the first PFAS exposure in firefighters. For instance, prostate cancer has a latency period of 15 years in civilian and military firefighters who use AFFF. If you struggle with cancer as a result of using this fire suppressant, we encourage you to contact our experienced attorneys, as you might be entitled to financial compensation from the manufacturers of AFFF. Because we understand how physically and emotionally draining having cancer can be, we will strive to make the legal process as simple as possible so that it will require minimal involvement from you.

File your AFFF exposure claim with the assistance of our diligent attorneys

With over 30 years of experience in pursuing financial compensation for toxic exposure victims, our attorneys are ready to offer civilian and military firefighters who used AFFF and developed cancer the legal assistance they need. The only documents we will request to assess your case are your military records, which you must retrieve, or your employment records and your medical records with your diagnosis. If we determine that you are eligible to file a claim for AFFF exposure with the responsible manufacturers, we will go to great lengths to obtain the most favorable outcome for your case. Our law firm works on a contingency fee basis, so you will not have to pay anything out of pocket unless we recover money for you.