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A Texas firefighter indicates he was diagnosed with prostate cancer following exposure to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used during training or to fight fuel-based fires.
The complaint (PDF) was filed last week by Patrick Kelly McDaniel in South Carolina federal court, naming more than a dozen chemical and safety equipment manufacturers as defendants. According to the lawsuit, the film-forming foam used as a firefighter exposed him to per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are known to be toxic and carcinogenic.
McDaniel indicates he was exposed to the film-forming foam while fighting fires on a regular basis, and was never informed about the risk it would pose to his long-term health. In addition, he was never given the proper protective gear to guard against exposure.
Aqueous film-forming foam has been widely used at military bases and by some civilian fire fighting organizations since the mid-1960s, to fight petroleum-based fires that can not be controlled or subdued by water alone.
PFAS 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.
The chemicals are projected to 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. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.
“PFAS are highly toxic and carcinogenic chemicals,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants knew, or should have known, that PFAS remain in the human body while presenting significant health risks to humans.”
In June 2019, a federal investigation found that PFAS chemicals are commonly found in numerous food products, including meats, seafood, chocolate, cake and other products. However, the FDA released a statement indicating that the levels found do not raise health concerns, based on the best available science.
According to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012, exposure may also suppress the immune system and limit the ability of the body to create antibodies in response to childhood vaccines.
In December 2018, all firefighting foam lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.
As film-forming foam lawyers continue to review and file claims for former fire fighters diagnosed with cancer, the size and scope of the litigation is expected to involve several hundred claims brought in courts nationwide over the coming months and years.