Several chemical manufacturers face a growing number of product liability lawsuits brought by men who say they developed testicular cancer from exposure to aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) commonly used to fight fires by the military, which have caused water contamination in many communities nationwide.
In a recent complaint (PDF) recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Neal Webb indicates he developed cancer following exposure to the firefighting foam chemicals while living near the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base and the former Naval Air Warfare Center, both in Pennsylvania.
Webb and his wife, Christine, are pursuing damages from 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., Chemours Company FC, Corteva, Inc. Du Pont De Nemours Inc., Dynax Corporation, Kidde-Fenwal, Inc. , National Foam, Inc., and Tyco Fire Products, alleging that local water supplies were contamianted with per- and poly-fluroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are used in the aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs).
“For decades, residents near the Bases and their children have been drinking, and eating food prepared with, water laced with dangerous chemicals, namely, PFOS and PFOA,” the lawsuit states. “For years, Plaintiffs have been exposed to and have ingested PFOS and PFOA at extremely high and dangerous levels.”
As a result of the exposure, the lawsuit indicates Webb developed testicular cancer.
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.