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A North Carolina man indicates in a recently filed lawsuit that toxic chemicals in fire fighting foam caused him to face two separate battles with cancer, following a 25 year career as a firefighter.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Frank Tigar in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on June 29, presenting claims against a number of chemical manufacturers and fire safety equipment companies, indicating that his cancer was a result of exposure aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used during training and response exercises.
Tigar worked as a fire fighter for the City of Ashville Fire Department in Clay County, North Carolina from about 1977 through 2003. During that time the fire foam was manufactured with toxic chemicals known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which include Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which are known to cause cancer and remain in the body for years after exposure.
The lawsuit presents claims against 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products, Chemguard, Buckeye Fire Equipment, National Foam, Inc. Kidde-Fenwal, Inc., E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company, the Chemours Company, Arkema, Inc., UTC Fire & Security Americas Corporation, the United Technologies Corporation, Chubb Fire, Ltd., and Angus Fire, indicating that the manufactures know about the fire fighting foam risks, yet withheld warnings and information from consumers and fire departments.
AFFF 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 along. Tigar notes that his equipment and gear was often coated with the fire foam during his 25 years as a firefighter.
“Plaintiff Frank Tigar was exposed to AFFF containing PFAS numerous times over the course of his career, and now has one or more PFAS materials in his blood serum,” the lawsuit states. “In approximately 2018, Plaintiff Frank Tigar was diagnosed with cancer. In approximately 2019, Plaintiff Frank Tigar was again diagnosed with cancer.”
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.
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 fire fighting foam lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.