A Pennsylvania man indicates he developed testicular cancer from exposure to firefighting aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), after living near military bases in the state where the toxic foam chemicals were used and made their way into his drinking water.
Robert Fulforth and his wife, Lindsay Howard, filed the complaint (PDF) on February 11, naming several chemical companies as defendants, including 3M Company, Ansul Chemical Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., National Foam, Inc. Du Pont de Nemours and Co., and the Chemours Company.
According to the lawsuit, Fulforth lived in Horsham, Pennsylvania from the time he was born until his 20s, during which time he drank water that had been contaminated with Poly-and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), which included perfluoroctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA).
In addition to other uses, the chemicals are found in aqueous film-forming foams, which were used to fight fires and in firefighter training on the nearby naval air station joint reserve base known as Willow Grove.
“Defendants knew or should have known that their harmful and defective products, AFFF, would be used for various purposes on said Base, including, but not limited to, training for firefighting, actual firefighting, and use in hangar sprinkler fire suppressant systems, which would cause the AFFF to drain into the ground and eventually pollute or contaminate the ground water beneath the Base and eventually migrate into the drinking/potable water of the Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states. “It was reasonably foreseeable to Defendants that Plaintiffs, as users of groundwater that supplied the wells near the Base, would use and consume groundwater contaminated by their products at the Base and would be harmed as a result.”
Fulforth was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2019, when he was only 27. As a result of the AFFF exposure, he claims that he required surgery to have his left testicle removed and remains at risk of the cancer returning.
Firefighting AFFF Exposure Litigation
3M Company, Tyco Fire Products and Chemguard, Inc. already face dozens of similar fire-fighting foam lawsuits filed by both individuals and municipalities nationwide, each involving allegations PFAS which have contaminated water sources nationwide or caused specific injuries.
In addition to firefighting foams, PFASs are chemical substances used to manufacture a number of products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and other products. The firefighting foam has been regularly used at military bases nationwide over the past decade during routine fire extinguishing exercises, and is increasingly used by civilian firefighters.
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 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.
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 exposure lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.