Is Firefighting Foam Toxic?

Firefighting foam is a key weapon in the suppression of fires, and it can help firefighters save lives and property in the event of a blaze. It is more effective than water at containing certain fires because of the nature of the product. Still, firefighting foam is toxic, and some say it presents several health risks. While the foam has successfully reduced fire damage for years, studies and real-world examples shed light on the potentially deadly side effects associated with prolonged foam exposure.

If you or a loved one recently encountered firefighting foam and you are having side effects or a life-threatening illness as a result, you could be eligible to join a mass tort lawsuit to recover damages. Recent studies have linked firefighting foam to potentially life-threatening diseases due to the product’s chemicals. Toxic firefighting foam could cause health problems that otherwise would not have appeared. A mass tort attorney in our network can review your situation and advise you on any damages you could recover in a claim or lawsuit.

What Is Firefighting Foam Made Of?

What firefighting foam is made of depends on what type of foam is being used. The most common types of foam firefighters use today include:

  • Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)
  • Alcohol Resistant Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AR-AFFF)
  • Class A Foams
  • Protein Foams

AFFF, the most common firefighting foam used, includes hydrocarbon surfactants, solvents, fluorochemical surfactants, and foam stabilizers. These chemicals work together to create a foam that suppresses the fire and prevents it from spreading through contact with oxygen. However, the chemicals in these foams can cause various cancers and other health issues that could be long-term and life-threatening. AR-AFFF has the added benefit of being alcohol-resistant.

Protein foams work similarly to an AFFF. However, they have the added benefit of being biodegradable, while Class A foams are used to combat wildfires. Class A foams are not designed to contain fires in the same way as Class B foams. In addition, Class A foams do not contain PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which are in AFFF and AR-AFFF and are a leading cause of cancer.

What Do Firefighters Get Cancer From?

Firefighters can get cancer from various chemicals they are exposed to, whether the chemicals are from firefighting foam or other items they encounter on the job. Because of the nature of the profession, firefighters are regularly exposed to chemicals in gas, vapor, and particle forms. While the products firefighters use to put out fires can be harmful when they inhale or ingest them, there are also hazards that come with items burning in a fire.

Many items that burn in fires are made from products that can be harmful if ingested or inhaled. While a normal person would not have issues with these products while using them as intended, firefighters can be in danger because of the fire that distorts the items.

PFAS Exposure Risks High for Firefighters, Even When Off the Job

In addition, depending on the size of the blaze, firefighters can be exposed to large amounts of harmful debris linked to the development of cancer. For instance, if a firefighter is extinguishing a fire at an older building, they could be exposed to asbestos. Even after the fire is over, firefighters can be exposed to toxic chemicals at the fire station if they do not properly clean their equipment. 

While firefighters can get cancer from the dangers of the job, they can also get cancer from the firefighting foam they use to fight and put out fires. PFAS, which are present in most firefighting foam, breaks down very slowly over time, and when they are ingested, they can cause serious damage to any organs they come in contact with. 

Can AFFF Cause Cancer?

AFFF exposure has been linked to many types of cancer due to the chemical compounds present within. The two chemical compounds are perfluorooctane acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Both are part of the larger PFAS group of chemicals that have been linked to long-term health concerns after prolonged exposure.

Some of the most common cancers linked to PFAS exposure include:

  • Testicular cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Breast cancer

The compounds have also been known to cause other diseases, such as thyroid disease and decreased fertility. If you have been exposed to firefighting foam and are experiencing any of the above illnesses, you may be able to sue the company that made the foam that made you ill.

Firefighting Foam and Prostate Cancer

In 2020, a plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division, that alleged firefighting foam was causing prostate cancer. The lawsuit claims that despite manufacturers knowing that their product contained PFAS, they produced and sold the product anyway. The claim also alleges the manufacturers knew about the dangers associated with PFAS, including that the substances were considered toxic.

Due to PFAS attaching to the proteins in human blood, not only did they harm the plaintiff in the present, but the chemicals were accumulating over time, creating more problems as time went on. The lawsuit argued that the plaintiff was diagnosed with prostate cancer due to firefighting foam exposure and that his cancer was preventable had the manufacturers not made the foam.  

So far, the lawsuit has not been settled, though it has led to more lawsuits being brought forth from firefighters who were experiencing similar symptoms.

AFFF Exposure Symptoms

AFFF exposure is linked to various health problems, all with their own symptoms. AFFF exposure could lead to asthma, cholesterol problems, thyroid disease, and various cancers. Knowing the common symptoms of each of these diseases can be integral in ensuring that you seek medical care before a disease can progress in your body.

If you have been exposed to an AFFF substance, you should be alert to symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blood in urine
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Getting sick more often than usual

These are just a few of the symptoms that are common when experiencing one of the possibly life-threatening side effects of AFFF exposure. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and you have been exposed to AFFF, you should seek medical care right away. Let your doctor know you have been exposed to a potentially toxic substance and share any other information that can help your medical provider help you.

Firefighting Foam Class Action Lawsuit

With many lawsuits being brought forth claiming that firefighting foam had caused life-threatening illnesses, a class action lawsuit was formed. As of March 16, 2022, 2,324 AFFF plaintiffs had come forward. In order to speed up the process and start to reach settlements after years of lawsuits being brought forth, a single judge was appointed to handle each lawsuit.

If AFFF has affected you and you are experiencing symptoms related to any of the cancers or other diseases that the product can cause, then you may be eligible to opt into the class-action lawsuit and receive compensation.

3M AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuit

3M is one of the companies named in the class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit claimed the company sold its product despite knowing the risks involved. Before this lawsuit, 3M was part of a group of companies that agreed to pay a large sum of money to settle claims that it contaminated the Tennessee River with PFAS. After this settlement, 3M continued to make firefighting foam that contained PFAS.

Who Qualifies for an AFFF Lawsuit?

Anyone who has suffered AFFF exposure and has cancer or another disease the product and its chemicals have caused may be eligible to join the AFFF lawsuit. This means that firefighters are not the only ones who qualify for the lawsuit, although they generally suffer more chemical exposure.

If you believe the cancer or illness you have resulted from AFFF exposure, you should seek legal counsel right away. Discuss your health issues and symptoms with the attorney and let them guide you through the process of getting involved in the lawsuit. They can answer your questions and help you solidify whether your particular situation qualifies for financial compensation.

How Do AFFF Lawsuits Work?

Before seeking a legal representative’s guidance, discuss your health with a medical professional. During this process, you should explain your symptoms and the reasons for your concerns. They can help you determine what is causing your illness and diagnose you so that you can get started on treatment for your condition.

After you have met with a health care provider, you should meet with an attorney who handles AFFF cases. Your attorney will ask for your medical records and any family history of your illness. They will also ask about how you encountered AFFF. If the attorney feels that your case is similar enough to those who have already joined the lawsuit, they will review your options for joining the lawsuit.

After you have opted into the lawsuit, you will await trial dates, which will be the key to determining how much compensation you could receive for your damages.

How Much Can I Get as Compensation for an AFFF Firefighter Foam Lawsuit?

Determining the exact amount you could receive from the AFFF lawsuit depends on various things. Factors that will influence your settlement include:

  • Length of exposure
  • Symptoms and side effects
  • Reduction in quality of life
  • Pain and suffering

A mass tort lawyer who has worked with class-action and mass tort lawsuits will have the experience to determine what items your lawsuit should address. Medical bills, lost wages, including those you could not earn due to the disease, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and reduced quality of life, are all recoverable if your AFFF exposure caused them.

When all these items are considered, you could receive compensation ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. An attorney can review your damages and estimate how much money you could receive.

Firefighting Foam Settlement

At this time, all foam settlement discussions are just speculation. Plaintiffs should expect to receive compensation based on the AFFF-related damages they endured. While some patients could see settlements of close to $500,000, others may see less than $100,000. The settlement you could receive will likely depend on your situation. 

Firefighting foam cases could see settlements within the next year or two based on how previous class-action lawsuits involving PFAS have gone.

Choosing an AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuit Attorney

Hiring the right AFFF firefighting foam lawsuit attorney could be the most important part of the entire legal process. Thoroughly research the lawyers and law firms that have seen successes with this case type. Look into what types of settlements they have reached and if it is in line with what other firms have been able to accomplish. 

Many law firms offer a free initial consultation so that you can learn more about your legal options and possible compensation. You should discuss your legal situation with as many law firms as you think is appropriate before choosing one to represent you. You want to make sure you choose the best attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Counsel on a Toxic Firefighting Foam Case Today

Pursuing legal compensation is a big step that requires a lot of thought. If you think this is the next step for you, a mass tort lawsuit attorney in our network is ready to talk with you. They can review your case and walk you through your options and more. They can look at your medical records and work with medical professionals to determine if what you are experiencing is, in fact, due to the toxicity of firefighting foam. 

Our priority is you, and we want to make sure that you are working on recovering your health while we fight to receive optimal compensation for you. For information on how we can help you, fill out our contact form for assistance with your case.