What Chemicals Are in Firefighting Foam?

Firefighting foam is created with human-made chemicals that are hazardous to your health if you ingest or inhale them. These chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), are found in the foam and other consumer products. If you have been exposed to firefighting foam and were recently diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer, then you could be eligible to recover compensation. 

Many plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of firefighting foam over the known hazards of the product’s chemicals. If you have suffered illness or injury from firefighting foam exposure, you can seek legal representation to hold the liable parties accountable for your injuries. A Mass Tort lawsuit attorney in our network can explain what chemicals in firefighter foam you may have been exposed to and the compensation you could seek for your illness. 

Does Firefighting Foam Still Contain PFAS?

Yes, most firefighting foam still contains PFAS. While Class A firefighting foam, which is used primarily for wildfires, does not contain PFAS, Class B firefighting foam does. All aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) and alcohol-resistant aqueous film-forming foam (AR-AFFF) contain PFAS. If you have been exposed to one of these Class B foams, then you have been exposed to PFAS.

Why Are PFAS Dangerous?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAS exposure can lead to cancer, liver damage, asthma, thyroid disease, and decreased fertility. Additionally, the CDC recommends an exposure limit that is 10 times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) limit. 

Still, PFAS contamination is on the EPA’s radar. Its new reporting rules for PFAS took effect in 2022. The rules require PFAS manufacturers to report the chemicals they produce in the United States. The reports are part of the agency’s data-gathering efforts to monitor how much PFAS are made and identify the sources that make them. The agency says it wants to improve its understanding of PFAS contamination, and how to reduce the risks that come with using the chemicals.

PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down easily, are toxic because of the chemical compounds that create them. Inhaling or ingesting PFAS could prove damaging to internal organs. By design, firefighting foam is meant to spread over a fire and create a blanket to suppress it. This can happen in the body as well, preventing the foam from breaking down for an extended period. 

Firefighting Foam Health Effects

Firefighting foam has been linked to numerous long-term and life-threatening health problems. Someone exposed to firefighting foam can develop any of the diseases mentioned earlier, which affect many parts of the body and can be life-altering even if they are not life-threatening. 

Does Firefighting Foam Cause Cancer?

AFFF has been sold for decades, and over that time, research has been done that shows how devastating the product can be to the health of those exposed to it. One of the most harmful effects of AFFF exposure is that it can cause various cancers. Some of the cancers commonly associated with exposure include:

  • Testicular cancer
  • Renal cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Colon cancer

Because of firefighting foam’s design, it can cling to internal organs and damage them over a long period. AFFF firefighting foam still contains PFAS, and because PFAS are toxic, then it is true that firefighting foam comes with its risks, including cancer. 

Properties of Firefighting Foam

There are five main characteristics of firefighting foam. Each one of the characteristics is important to the foam’s role in suppressing fires. Each type of foam has different strengths and weaknesses, but they all serve the same purpose. The same properties that make firefighting foam so successful at suppressing fires are also the properties that can make the product so harmful to those exposed to it.


Knockdown is defined as the speed at which the foam spreads across a fire. When using foam, the goal is for it to spread across the flames and settle, which will put out the fire and make sure it does not come back. If the knockdown is too quick, then the foam blanket will not be as long-lasting as is sometimes needed. AFFF has a very quick knockdown, but its strengths lie in its other characteristics.

Heat Resistance

Heat resistance is how well the foam blanket can withstand direct contact with a flame without dissipating. A foam that is very heat resistant will work better at forming a foam blanket over a fire no matter how hot it is.

Fuel Tolerance

Fuel tolerance is the level at which the foam prevents the fire from rising above the surface of the foam blanket. A good foam should suffocate the fire and not allow it to reach oxygen. The more fuel tolerant a foam is, the less chance a fire has of escaping.

Vapor Suppression

Like fuel tolerance, a foam’s ability to suppress vapors is all about suffocating a potentially harmful part of the fire. Some vapors are dangerous and flammable. A good foam will prevent these vapors from escaping.

Alcohol Tolerance

Alcohol tolerance makes it so that the fire cannot absorb water that comes out of the foam bubbles. AR-AFFF is the only firefighting foam that has alcohol tolerance.

What Is AFFF Firefighting Foam?

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), foam is used to form a blanket for flammable and combustible liquids, which extinguishes the fire by keeping it from reaching oxygen. AFFF is a variation of foam that firefighters use to suppress Class B fires.

According to Alaska’s government website, AFFF is a fire suppressant used to extinguish flammable liquid fires such as fuel fires. While it is used to handle fires in the real world, it is also one of the most common foams used in training facilities. Like other firefighting foams, AFFF prevents fire from escaping and spreading by suffocating it and preventing it from reaching oxygen.

Unlike healthier and less damaging foams, AFFF has synthetic chemicals added to it. These chemicals make the foam very effective at extinguishing fires but also very dangerous if inhaled or ingested.

Firefighting Foam Contamination

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that nearly 700 military installations have released PFAS into the environment as of 2021. The Department of Defense is still working to restore the areas where PFAS has contaminated the environment and drinking water. This contamination can lead to the same health issues experienced by firefighters who use the foam to put out fires. 

Two U.S. Congress members introduced PFAS Firefighter Protection Act in the House and Senate in 2022. The proposed legislation would ban firefighting chemicals from being made, imported, and sold in the U.S. PFAS foams would also be banned at U.S. airports by October 2024. 

Some observers estimate that firefighting foam has contaminated drinking water for millions of people in the United States. With this bill, the goal promotes the use of safer and similarly effective foams to prevent the exposure of harmful substances to firefighters and others. This includes preventing PFAS from being inappropriately disposed of and potentially contaminating drinking water.

Why Do Firefighters Use Foam Instead of Water?

Firefighting foam is used instead of water because of its ability to suppress the fire and prevent it from spreading through contact with oxygen. There are two main classes of firefighting foam, Class A and Class B, and each is used depending on the nature of the fire needing to be extinguished.

In order to put out a fire, one must extinguish the flames. Without the ability to reach oxygen, the fire cannot spread. Firefighting foam suffocates the fire. Depending on the type of foam firefighters use, it can take a long time to drain. This disallows the opportunity for the fire to spread after foam has affected it.

By preventing the fire from reaching oxygen, foam prevents combustion. In addition, it has cooling properties, which cool the temperature of the fire and prevents it from spreading through heat and vapors.

Firefighting Foam Lawsuit

Numerous lawsuits are pending against the foam’s manufacturers because of the negative effects people suffered due to firefighting foam exposure. The lawsuits allege the manufacturers knew they created a dangerous product but decided to create and sell the product anyway. 

Class B firefighting foam contains PFAS chemicals that are toxic if inhaled. Some of the companies named in the lawsuit have settled other PFAS-related lawsuits. 3M, a leading firefighting foam manufacturer, was one of a group of companies that settled a lawsuit after it was determined it inappropriately disposed of PFAS into the Tennessee River. 

Joining the Firefighting Foam Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness after firefighting foam exposure, you should seek the counsel of a legal representative who can work with you on recovering compensation. In order to join the lawsuit, you will first need to present the facts of your situation to an attorney so they can form your case. Your attorney will then use your medical records, your medical history, and other important information to determine if firefighting foam exposure caused your illness.

What Damages Can I Recover After Firefighting Foam Exposure?

After your attorney has helped you form your lawsuit, the attention will turn to recovering compensation for your damages. You could recover many items after AFFF exposure, including both economic and non-economic damages.

Some of the most common recoverable damages include:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering

While some of these damages are an easily determined amount of money, others will be determined based on factors such as your age, the severity of the illness you have developed, and any physical or mental ailment that has prevented you from living life the way you were before AFFF exposure.

Your attorney will help you determine the value of non-economic damages, basing their estimations on prior settlements and looking carefully at the current lawsuit. Once your attorney has determined what you should be able to recover, they will fight for you to receive optimal compensation.

When Will the Firefighting Foam Lawsuit Reach the Settlement Stage?

There is no timeline for how much longer it might be before the firefighting foam lawsuits reach the settlement stage. In March 2022, it was determined that one single judge would handle all lawsuits brought against the manufacturers. Those who made the decision thought it would speed up the process and start settlement talks after years of lawsuits accumulating.

The process can take years, but presenting your lawsuit is key to ensuring that you receive proper compensation once the involved parties reach a settlement. If you are suffering because of exposure to the chemicals in firefighting foam, do not hesitate to reach out to an attorney. 

Choosing the Right Firefighting Foam Attorney for You

When it comes time to seek legal counsel, you should make sure you are picking the right attorney for you. While law firms manage cases in various practice areas, you will want to make sure you are choosing an attorney who can work with you on your specific case and give you the individual attention you need.

Mass tort and class action lawsuits can sometimes feel less personal because of their nature. This is why it is important that you work with an class action lawsuit attorney who understands these cases and how each individual influences the lawsuit. Your health effects and other damages should be treated with care to make sure that you are receiving the proper compensation for your situation.

Review Your Legal Options in a Firefighting Foam Case with a Lawyer

When you are ready to seek legal help, an attorney in our network can walk you through every step of the process from beginning to end. Our attorney network is committed to seeing you treated fairly and strives to see you receive the compensation that you deserve. 

As you decide whether you want to pursue a product liability case, a product liability lawsuit lawyer can also answer your questions about the chemicals in firefighting foam and determine if you have suffered exposure to them. If you have been exposed to the chemicals in firefighting foam and are suffering an illness because of it, you can fill out the contact form to learn more about how a mass tort attorney can help your case.