Anti-Fire Foam Exposure Led to Prostate Cancer and Kidney Cancer, Firefighter’s Lawsuit Claims

Firefighters were never told exposure to the toxic chemicals in the anti-fire foam presented a health risk, the lawsuit states.

A North Carolina firefighter says he developed prostate cancer and kidney cancer following years of exposure to anti-fire foam used by military and civilian first responders.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Willie Wikes in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on March 25, seeking financial compensation from a host of chemical and safety equipment companies named as defendants, including 3M Company, Du Pont and others.

Wikes worked for years as a firefighter, during which time he was repeatedly exposed to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) during training exercises and while fighting fuel-based fires. The anti-fire foam was sold for years with toxic chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which the lawsuit indicates led to Wikes’ diagnoses of both prostate cancer and kidney cancer.

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Firefighting Foam Lawsuits

Exposure to firefighting foam chemicals may result in an increased risk of cancer for firefighters, military and airport personnel.


Commonly described as “forever chemicals”, PFAS compounds used in firefighter foam 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. However, they were used for decades in anti-fire foam, and have been linked to serious health risks for firefighters and individuals regularly exposed to the chemicals.

During the time he was exposed to AFFF, Wikes indicates firefighters like himself were never informed of the long-term health risks or that they may develop cancer in the future.

“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,” Wikes’ lawsuit states. “Defendants have known of the health hazards associated with AFFF and/or its compounds for decades and that in their intended and/or common use would harm human health.”

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.

Wikes’ case joins hundreds of similar anti-fire foam cancer lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals directly exposed to the chemicals while spraying the products during training or response exercises, indicating that the toxic chemicals caused various injuries, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other cancers. Claims are also being pursued by individuals who lived near military bases, airports and other training facilities, where the chemicals have contaminated local drinking water.

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.


  • LarryDecember 7, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    Was around this foam many years. My family owned a Fire extinguisher company and they sold to many city fire departments for all my life. Developed prostate cancer and had surgery to remove my prostate

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