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Following years of exposure to toxic firefighter foam used during training exercises and in response to certain fuel based fires, a Mississipi man indicates he developed prostate cancer in a recently filed product liability lawsuit.
The complaint (PDF), filed by Dewayne Miles in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on July 29, pursuing damages from a plethora of companies involved in the manufacturing or sale of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which contained known cancer-causing chemicals known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Miles indicates he was directly exposed to AFFF during his working career as a firefighter, alleging that the manufacturers withheld known information about the risks associated with firefighting foam exposure.
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.
“Defendants did not warn public entities, firefighter trainees who they knew would foreseeably come into contact with their AFFF products, or firefighters employed by either civilian and/or military employers that use of and/or exposure to Defendants’ AFFF products containing PFAS and/or its precursors would pose a danger to human health,” Miles’ lawsuit states. “The Plaintiff was never informed that this product was inherently dangerous. Nor was the Plaintiff warned about the known health risks associated with this product.”
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.
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.