Firefighting Foam and Cancer: Facts You Must Know

You risk your life every day saving lives and property from devastating fires. But the very materials you use to extinguish fire put your life in danger. If you used AFFF firefighting foam and developed cancer, you may have the right to file a lawsuit.

The mass tort lawyers at Rueb Stoller Daniel share what you need to know on this topic. To get started with your claim, contact us to schedule a free case review.

What Is Firefighting Foam?

Firefighting foam, or Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), is a specialized firefighting agent designed to suppress fires started by flammable liquids, such as:

  • Oil
  • Gasoline
  • Other hydrocarbons.

It works by forming a film on the surface of the burning liquid, which prevents the release of flammable vapors and puts out the fire.

What Are PFAS Chemicals?

PFAS is an acronym standing for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, which are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in various industrial products. One of the properties of these chemicals is the fact that they repel water and oil, which is why they are used in firefighting materials.

However, PFAS are dangerous due to their persistence in the environment and potential health risks. PFAS chemicals are linked to numerous health issues, including cancer.

In 2019, the National Defense Authorization Act ordered the Department of Defense to stop purchasing PFAS-based firefighting foam starting on October 1, 2023, and phase it out completely by October 1, 2024.

What Types of Cancer Can Firefighting Foam Cause?

Firefighting foam cancer risks are under research by doctors, following complaints from many retired and active firefighters. So far, researchers have identified the following types of cancer that may be linked to AFFF exposure.

Testicular Cancer

Various studies indicate an increased risk of testicular cancer among firefighters who have been exposed to PFAS chemicals. The symptoms of this type of cancer are:

  • Lump or swelling in either of the testes
  • Pain, heaviness, or discomfort in the scrotum
  • Dull ache in the lower belly or groin
  • Enlarged or tender breast tissue.

Kidney Cancer

Several clinical studies suggest that exposure to PFAS chemicals, including those found in firefighting foam, may be associated with an elevated risk of kidney cancer.

This potentially fatal condition has the following symptoms:

  • Blood in urine
  • Pain in the back or side
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant tiredness.

firefighters are exposed to a dangerous chemical in the material they use

Prostate Cancer

Although research is still ongoing, some studies have indicated a potential link between AFFF exposure and prostate cancer. Patients usually experience the following symptoms:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Erectile dysfunction.

Pancreatic Cancer

Some research has suggested a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer in individuals exposed to PFAS chemicals, including firefighters using firefighting foam. This is one of the most severe types of cancer.

Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer shows no symptoms in the early stages, when there are chances of curing it. In later stages, patients experience:

  • belly pain spreading to the sides
  • yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye (jaundice)
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • dark-colored urine.

How Many Firefighters Have Joined the Lawsuit?

According to the most recent data, there are 5,938 pending cases in the multi-district litigation against firefighting foam manufacturers. And every day, hundreds of firefighters are joining the suit, as more cancer cases are being diagnosed among first responders.

Who Are the Defendants in the Firefighting Foam Litigation?

The formula for the firefighting foam linked with cancer is not protected by a patent. Thus, it is manufactured by dozens of companies both in the US and worldwide. However, the most prominent defendants in the lawsuit are 3M & Co. and DuPont.

Other US defendants are:

  • Dynax Corp.
  • UTC Fire & Security Americas
  • AGC Chemicals Americas
  • Corteva, Inc.

Has the Litigation Started?

The bellwether trial concerning PFAS-based firefighting foam was initiated by the city of Stuart, FL against 3M CO. et al., claiming that the dangerous chemical contaminated the municipal water system in the city.

It was supposed to start in June 2023, but the defendants decided to settle it for $10.3 billion, payable over the next 13 years. This is not a clear indication of the outcome of individual firefighters’ cases against the companies, but it is a positive start.

Can I File a Firefoam Lawsuit?

The answer to this question depends on the statute of limitations in the state you live in. The average duration of this period of time is 2 years after you were diagnosed with cancer to file suit for damages.

The best course of action is to contact Rueb Stoller Daniel and tell us about your situation. We can advise you about if you may qualify to file a lawsuit. Call us now at 1-866-CALL-RSD to schedule a free case review with an experienced attorney!