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Toxic agents found in AFFF can contribute to leukemia

By Treven Pyles

Posted on December 18th, 2019

Studies have shown that the main substances contained in Aqueous Film Forming Foam, known as PFAS, can be responsible for a long list of adverse health effects. These compounds that can accumulate in the blood, and the internal organs, have also been associated with bone marrow cancer.

Given their toxicity, mobility, and bioaccumulation potential, constant exposure to PFAS, such as by consuming contaminated foods or water, 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 which may result from certain levels of exposure, such as:

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. 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. In people with leukemia, blood cells stop operating in the normal way and deprive the organism of vital functions. Cancerous blood cells can also be overproduced to the point of crowding healthy cells.

There are several different types of leukemia, and the best course of treatment and a person's chance of survival depends on early diagnosis and type and stage of cancer. Chronic leukemia gets worse over time, but acute leukemia develops quickly and worsens rapidly because the cancerous cells multiply fast. Symptoms of leukemia include the following:

  • fatigue/weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal discomfort
  • headaches
  • night sweats
  • shortness of breath
  • frequent infections
  • small red spots under the skin

If your doctor suspects that you have leukemia based on the symptoms, he or she will need samples of cells from your blood and bone marrow to be sure.

When PFAS chemicals are present in drinking water, their level in the blood is expected to be much higher than levels in drinking water. 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.

The causes for leukemia are not yet known, but it is suspected to involve a genetic predisposition triggered by a number of environmental risk factors. 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.

Research on firefighters' blood has found high levels of PFAS

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 contaminate the water in areas where it is used, as well as permeate through the skin and into the human body from various pieces of equipment treated with the substance.

Firefighting foam linked to water contamination at military installations

Environmental officials are tracking an emerging threat to drinking water across the country linked to the firefighting foam used at military installations and airports. Service members, military families, and communities around military bases have been exposed to PFAS water contamination because the Defense Department uses foam containing the chemicals for military exercises.

A number of public water systems and private drinking wells in addition to military water supplies have been treated on a 2016 EPA recommendation that advised people not to drink water if it had more than 70 parts per trillion of PFOA and PFOS chemicals, a level that researchers said is inadequate to protect public health.

Claim eligibility in leukemia & possible misdiagnosis

Initially, symptoms of leukemia are not indistinct from those of other cancers, like weakness, fatigue, and weight loss. The signs or symptoms of leukemia may vary depending on the type of leukemia diagnosed. Some conditions occur as side effects of leukemia, including:

  • anemia
  • enlarged liver or spleen
  • leucopenia
  • thrombocytopenia
  • swollen lymph nodes

Some symptoms, like night sweats, fever, and achiness, resemble flu-like symptoms. Unlike symptoms of the flu, which typically subside as you get better, leukemia symptoms generally last longer and may include sudden weight loss, bone, and joint pain and easy bleeding or bruising.

When swollen lymph nodes, unexplained and frequent nose bleeds, as well as tiny red spots on the skin begin to appear, your doctor will begin to suspect leukemia. A diagnosis is generally given after a blood count, which involves looking at white cells through a microscope.

At this stage, environmental factors that might have favored the development of leukemia can also be tested for. If you live near an area where PFAS might be a significant water polluter, like an airport or military base, a blood test for PFAS can tell you what your levels are at the time the blood was drawn.

Although many people are skeptical that compensation can help those with a leukemia diagnosis, it remains a fact that cancer claims are a necessity that help sufferers and/or their families to move forward.

Leukemia cancer claims for patients & family members

If you have reasons to believe that contamination with PFAS could have played a part in you or a loved one being diagnosed with leukemia, don't hesitate to call our lawyers for a free legal consultation.

A diagnosis of leukemia can come as a significant burden for every family. While prospects are rarely good for this horrible disease, a claim against parties that might have contributed to your injury can go a long way towards mitigating some of the costs of your treatment. Contact our attorneys to review whether you or a family member may be entitled to financial compensation.