Can AFFF Firefighting Foam Cause Cancer?

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firefighting foam cancer prostate cancer dangerous chemicals

Are you aware of the potential cancer risks associated with Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF)? The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed that AFFF firefighting foam can cause cancer due to the presence of two carcinogenic compounds, PFOA and PFOS. This discovery raises concerns regarding the health risks faced by firefighters and individuals in close proximity.

Let’s explore the potential health risks associated with AFFF and if you can file an AFFF lawsuit to recover the damages you have suffered.

What is AFFF Firefighting Foam?

Initially developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, AFFF, or Aqueous Film-Forming Foam, quickly gained widespread use in various settings. It became a powerful tool for combating chemical fires in oil refineries, chemical plants, storage facilities, and military airports. By forming a foam that creates a film, AFFF effectively extinguishes flammable-liquid fires, depriving them of oxygen and preventing reignition. As a result, AFFF has become an essential firefighting agent in numerous industries and locations. The foam’s effectiveness lies in its ability to cool and smother the fire while creating a barrier between the flames and the fuel source.

Unfortunately, certain chemicals commonly used in AFFF formulation are toxic and potentially carcinogenic. Two such chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), belong to a group called per- or poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These persistent pollutants, also known as “forever chemicals,” take a long time to break down in the environment.

Recognizing the potential dangers of these chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designates PFOA and PFOS as “two contaminants of emerging concern.” It suggests a link between these toxins and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other reputable scientific organizations also acknowledge the potential cancer-causing properties of PFAS chemicals in the toxic firefighting foam.

How Does AFFF Foam Affect Human Health?

Long-term exposure to PFOS and PFOA chemicals in AFFF foam can lead to various health issues. While minimal exposure is generally safe, long-term exposure increases the likelihood of the following conditions:

  • Adult-onset asthma or worsening of existing asthma
  • Weakened immune system
  • Thyroid disease
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Reduced fertility
  • Liver damage
  • Ulcerative colitis

Heightened Risks During Pregnancy

Exposure to PFOS and PFOA poses significant risks during pregnancy, such as low birth weight, slowed child growth, and pregnancy-induced hypertension leading to preeclampsia. Additionally, the development of the child’s immune system may be impacted, leading to a poor response to vaccines.

Potential Links to Cancer

While PFOS and PFOA are not established carcinogens, studies suggest potential associations of these chemicals with the following types of cancer:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Other cancers of the reproductive system

What Are the Risk Factors for AFFF Exposure?

The increased risk of cancer due to AFFF exposure extends beyond firefighters, military personnel, and those directly involved in combating chemical fires. Individuals residing in current or former military bases or aviation facilities where AFFF was used or stored also face potential health risks. Here are some risk factors that lead to AFFF exposure.

Elevated Concentrations

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveals that individuals living near PFAS-producing or using facilities and workers in these environments exhibit higher blood serum concentrations of PFOS and PFOA compared to the general population. Firefighters have significantly elevated levels of PFAS in their bloodstream, which is often three times higher than the average population.

Wider Contamination

The contamination caused by PFAS can extend beyond the immediate vicinity of the chemical fire site. In fact, soil and groundwater become susceptible to PFAS leaching, thereby potentially impacting larger areas. Moreover, the locations where aircraft crashes have occurred, including commercial airliners or military jets, may harbor PFAS contamination.

Duration and Frequency

The risk of developing cancer and other health issues from PFAS exposure increases with the duration and frequency of exposure. By carefully assessing the extent and duration of PFAS exposure, you can effectively evaluate the associated health risks and take proactive measures to safeguard yourself and others.

Weakened Immune System

An individual’s overall health and immune system function significantly contribute to the risk of developing malignancies. Additionally, if you have a compromised immune system, you may be more vulnerable to the detrimental effects of PFAS exposure.

Can You Seek Compensation For the Damages Caused By AFFF Foam?

While you cannot undo exposure to PFAS and its long-term consequences, pursuing an AFFF lawsuit can provide the financial assistance needed to cover related expenses. Damages awarded in these lawsuits may include:

Financial Relief for Medical Expenses

By pursuing an AFFF lawsuit, individuals can seek rightful compensation to address current and future medical bills resulting from PFAS-related health issues. This compensation encompasses various expenses, such as cancer diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing medical care.

Recovering Income Lost Due to PFAS Exposure

Individuals impacted by AFFF-related PFAS exposure can seek reimbursement for lost wages through legal action. This encompasses compensation for missed work days, reduced earning capacity, and potential future income loss resulting from PFAS exposure.

Compensation for Pain and Suffering

AFFF lawsuits allow individuals to seek compensation for the physical and emotional distress resulting from PFAS-related health complications. This includes the pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life experienced due to the harmful effects of PFAS exposure.

Who Are the Defendants for the AFFF Foam Lawsuit?

With the rise in PFAS-related cancer awareness, individuals and their families affected by these risks are seeking legal solutions. When pursuing justice, it is important to identify the defendants involved in these lawsuits, particularly those involved in increasing exposure to PFAS.

The 3M Foam Manufacturers

One significant defendant in AFFF-related litigation is the foam manufacturer 3M. Despite its commitment to discontinue the use of PFAS in all products by 2025, 3M faces multidistrict litigation (MDL) and numerous individual lawsuits. These legal actions involve several water districts, as well as the states of New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and New Mexico. The consolidation of these lawsuits into a single court aims to streamline the legal process for increased efficiency and consistency.

Firefighting Departments

While 3M shoulders a considerable portion of the legal burden, it is worth noting that fire departments themselves have also faced liability claims. In certain instances, fire departments are held responsible for groundwater contamination around military bases, airports, and industrial sites. Additionally, ongoing legal battles have highlighted the challenges faced by fire departments in terms of cleanup costs and potential insurance complications, mainly when operating across state lines.

With the given complexities and evolving legal challenges, it is essential for those affected by AFFF-related health issues to seek legal representation. Experienced AFFF lawyers can guide and help individuals understand their rights, explore potential legal actions, and seek compensation for the health consequences of AFFF exposure.

Get Help Filing an AFFF Cancer Lawsuit

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If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and suspect AFFF firefighting foam as the cause, it is crucial to act swiftly and seek legal assistance. At Uptown Injury Law, our team of experienced firefighting foam lawyers is ready to advocate for your rights. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t have to worry about any out-of-pocket costs. Call us today at 917-540-8728 to initiate your case. We are dedicated to helping you secure the compensation you rightfully deserve.


What Are the Primary Health Risks Linked to Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)?

Exposure to Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) actively poses significant health risks due to PFAS chemicals. These chemicals have been linked to the development of cancer, thyroid disorders, liver damage, reproductive problems, and immune system dysfunction.

Are All Types of Firefighting Foam Harmful?

No, only firefighting foams that contain PFAS chemicals are considered harmful. Among these is Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which contains these potentially hazardous substances. However, experts and researchers actively explore alternative foam types and solutions to mitigate health risks associated with PFAS-containing foams effectively.

Are Firefighting Foam Lawsuits Only Targeting the Navy?

No, firefighting foam lawsuits extend beyond the Navy. While the Navy actively utilizes AFFF, affected individuals have filed lawsuits against various entities, including military firefighters, firefighting foam manufacturers, airport firefighters, and municipalities.

How Can Firefighters Protect Themselves From the Risks Associated With AFFF?

Firefighters can take precautions such as using personal protective equipment, following decontamination protocols after exposure, and advocating for safer alternatives to AFFF in firefighting operations.

Can I Join a Firefighting Foam Lawsuit if I Have Developed Health Issues?

Yes, you can file a lawsuit if you believe your health issues result from AFFF exposure. It is advisable to consult with an attorney specializing in firefighting foam lawsuits, as they can assess your case and guide you in pursuing legal action.

Can Firefighters Who Have Retired Still File Lawsuits for Health Issues Caused by AFFF Exposure During Their Active Duty?

Yes, retired firefighters who have developed health issues due to AFFF exposure during active duty may still be eligible to file lawsuits. However, consulting with an AFFF lawyer is essential to understand the legal options available.

Can AFFF Impact Individuals Who Are Not Firefighters?

Yes, AFFF contamination can affect communities surrounding firefighting training areas, airports, and other locations where AFFF has been used. Moreover, environmental contamination and subsequent exposure pathways can impact the health of individuals in these areas.

How Long Do Firefighting Foam Lawsuits Typically Take to Reach a Settlement?

The duration of firefighting foam lawsuits can vary significantly, depending on factors such as the case’s complexity, the number of plaintiffs involved, and the legal process. Some cases may settle relatively quickly, while others may take years to resolve.


Kyle Newman Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Uptown Injury Law New York's Best Personal Injury Medical Malpractice and Accident Law firm New York's Top Trial Lawyers
Kyle Newman Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Uptown Injury Law New York's Best Personal Injury Medical Malpractice and Accident Law firm New York's Top Trial Lawyers

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