A growing number of testicular cancer lawsuits are being filed by individuals who indicate they were exposed to dangerous chemicals in firefighting foam, which have been used nationwide in recent decades and caused widespread environmental damage.
In a complaint (PDF) filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on January 29, Andrew Verderame indicates he developed cancer from drinking water contaminated with perflourinated compounds (PFAS), which have been used in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) commonly used by the military and fire fighters.
The lawsuit names a number of defendants, including 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products, Chemguard, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, National Foam, Inc., Kidde-Fenwal, Dynax Corporation, Du Pont de Nemours and Company, the Chemours Company and Corteva, Inc., indicating they failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks associated with exposure to firefighting foam chemicals in drinking water and other sources.
Verderame presents the claim together with his wife, indicating the firefighting foam was used by the U.S. Navy and Pennsylvania Air National Guard on ships and military bases, including the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham, Township, Pennsylvania, as well as at the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania.
The couple lived near the bases from 1974 to 2002, and indicates their water supply was contaminated with the chemicals, resulting in Verderame being diagnosed with testicular cancer in April 2014.
“Defendants manufactured AFFF and/or PFAS for use in AFFF that contaminated and continues to contaminate the environment, yet no Defendant included user warnings to protect the environment or innocent bystanders,” the lawsuit states. “Residents in the area near the Bases, including Plaintiffs, obtained and continue to obtain their drinking water predominantly from groundwater pumped from either municipal or private wells.”
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 PFAS which have contaminated water sources nationwide or caused specific injuries.
PFAS Exposure Concerns
In addition to firefighting foams, PFAS chemicals are 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, thus the name “forever chemicals”, 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.