Drinking PFAS Contaminated Water Led To Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Lawsuit Claims

U.S. Air Force veteran indicates that water contaminated with PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam used on military bases caused her cancer to develop.

A U.S. Air Force veteran alleges in a recently filed lawsuit that she developed breast cancer caused by years of drinking water tainted with PFAS chemicals from aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which were regularly used to fight fires and during training exercises while she was stationed at multiple military bases.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Daphne Jason on October 19, in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, naming a host of chemical and safety equipment manufacturers as defendants, including 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, DuPont and others.

Jason indicates she served in the military from 1989 through 1995, during which time she was stationed at multiple U.S. Air Force bases, where she drank PFAS contaminated water. She blames exposure to the chemicals used in the firefighting foam with causing her breast cancer diagnosis in October 2020.

Commonly described as “forever chemicals”, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds used in firefighter foam include perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are now known to bioaccumulate in the body and environment, since they do not naturally breakdown, increasing the risk of a number of serious health conditions for former firefighters and others regularly exposed to the chemicals.

Experts warn PFAS chemicals contained in the firefighter foam may take thousands of years to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water.

The toxic chemicals were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. However, since then the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.

“According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), studies indicate that exposure to fluorochemical products over certain levels may result in developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes),” Jason’s lawsuit states. “The EPA has also warned that there is suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential for fluorochemical products.”

Jason’s case joins hundreds of similar PFAS water contamination cancer lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals directly exposed to the chemicals while spraying the products during training or response exercises, as well as those who were drinking PFAS contaminated water on military bases, which has been linked to injuries like breast cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other cancers.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the cases, the federal litigation is centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, where it is expected that a small group of “bellwether” cases will be prepared for early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries respond to certain evidence and testimony which will be repeated throughout the claims. However, if settlements or another resolution for the lawsuits is not reached following coordinated pretrial proceedings, hundreds of individual claims brought by firefighters and others may later be remanded to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate jury trials.

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