COVID-19 Updates: We are keeping our staff, clients and their family members safe and healthy. Our law firm is 100% operational, available in-person and 24/7 assistance by email and phone. Read More

How does Aqueous Fire Fighting Foam (AFFF) work?

AFFF has been used for the last 50 years to extinguish class B fires by both civilian and military firefighters, as it is very effective. However, it contains PFOS and PFOA, two groups of dangerous chemicals.

answered by Gregory A. Cade

How AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) extinguishers work?

For the last 50 years, aqueous film-forming foam, commonly known as AFFF, has been used by civilian and military firefighters to extinguish class B fires, namely fires that are caused by flammable liquids such as:

  • Gasoline
  • Petroleum greases
  • Tars
  • Oils
  • Solvents
  • Alcohols

To extinguish a fire, aqueous film-forming foams act in two phases:

  • Separation effect: the foam blanket suppresses oxygen supply to the flammable material and prevents combustible evaporation
  • Cooling effects: AFFF can rapidly spread on the surface of flammable liquids and form a dense and stable foam layer that acts a physical barrier against the heat and mass transfer, thus exhibiting excellent cooling and covering isolation effects in hydrocarbon fires, or pool fire - a fire fueled by hydrocarbon compounds like oil and gas

The PFAS chemicals from AFFF are very persistent in the environment and in the human body

The PFAS chemicals present in firefighting foam are well-known carcinogens. The breakdown of these chemicals is very slow. Anyone exposed to AFFF will have those carcinogens in their body for a long time, often the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, until the 1990s, firefighters and those in the military were told it was safe.

PFAS may be orally ingested, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled through exposure in the atmosphere. According to medical research, some PFAS may have adverse effects in humans, and have potentially been linked with cancer, hormone disruption, infertility, high cholesterol, obesity, and compromised immune system, to name a few. Thereby, firefighters and military personnel who regularly used AFFF and came to suffer from a related disease are eligible for compensation from the manufacturers which produced it.

Legal assistance for the victims of AFFF exposure

Most of the people exposed to AFFF are either firefighters or in the U.S. military. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) lists medical conditions possibly associated with AFFF exposure:

If you or a loved one are suffering the side effects of AFFF exposure, contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. today, as you may be entitled to compensation. After reviewing your medical history and AFFF exposure, we will discuss your options. That may include joining a class-action lawsuit against various companies, including 3M, that manufactured and distributed it, or/and disability compensation and treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Other related questions

The widespread public exposure to dangerous levels of PFAS chemicals has prompted the EPA’s release of a PFAS “Action Plan” in February 2019. The plan focused almost exclusively on the perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) the main precursors in AFFF.

Read more

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed with the help of a specialized attorney by the surviving family members of a victim of AFFF exposure.

Read more

Disability compensation for exposure to AFFF is available only for firefighters who served in the military. However, civilian firefighters can also recover compensation by filing a lawsuit against the company which manufactured the product.

Read more

If you were exposed to AFFF by living in close proximity to a military base, which used the product, you do not qualify for compensation, as only firefighters and military personnel can take legal action.

Read more

Although the PFOS and PFOA in AFFF can be harmful to the human body in any amount, exposure needs to occur for several years for a person to develop cancer.

Read more

Exposure to PFOS and PFOA, the toxic chemicals in AFFF, can lead to the development of multiple serious diseases over the years, including kidney cancer and bladder cancer.

Read more

The most accurate method to determine whether you have been exposed to chemicals is environmental monitoring, which is done by measuring the concentration of a chemical in the air and the duration of exposure to it.

Read more

If you developed a disease following exposure to AFFF, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit against the company which manufactured the product you regularly used.

Read more

The duration of the legal process in cases of AFFF exposure can range between several months to one year, depending on how many companies are responsible for your exposure, as well as on the severity of your diagnosis.

Read more

There are over 1.1 million volunteer and career firefighters throughout the country, out of which approximately 20% develop cancer as a result of AFFF exposure.

Read more

See more questions