A recently filed product liability lawsuit indicates an Indiana firefighter developed testicular cancer following exposure to chemicals in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), claiming chemical manufacturers knew about the potential risks, yet have withheld warnings for firefighters and other individuals who used the products.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Terry Hill in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on January 8, who says he was regularly exposed to fire-fighting foam during training and service as a civilian and military firefighter.
A host of manufacturers are named as defendants, including 3M Company, Buckey Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., Chemours Company FC, Chubb Fire, Ltd., Corteva, Inc. Du Pont De Nemours Inc., Dynax Corporation, Kidde, National Foam, Inc., Tyco Fire Products, United Technologies Corporation and UTC Fire & Security Americas Corporation, Inc.
3M Company, Tyco Fire Products and Chemguard, Inc. already face dozens of other fire-fighting foam lawsuits filed by both individuals and municipalities nationwide, each involving allegations perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) which have contaminated water sources nationwide.
PFASs are chemical substances used to manufacture a number of products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and firefighting foams, which have been regularly used at military bases nationwide over the past decade during routine fire extinguishing exercises.
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.
“PFAS are highly toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. Defendants knew, or should have known, that PFAS remain in the human body while presenting significant health risks to humans,” Hill’s lawsuit states. “Plaintiff was unaware of the dangerous properties of the Defendants’ AFFF products and relied on the Defendants’ instructions as to the proper handling of the products.”
Hill indicates he never received, or was told to wear, special protective gear to guard against exposure to the fire-fighting foam, even though Defendants knew of the health hazard associated with the products for decades.
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 AFFF exposure lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.