Firefighter Instructor Files Lawsuit Over Prostate Cancer Diagnosis From Training Foam Exposure

Toxic foam exposure led to PFAS chemicals bioaccumulating in the firefighting trainer's body, resulting in a prostate cancer diagnosis, the lawsuit claims

After receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis, a firefighter instructor has filed a lawsuit against 3M, DuPont, BASF and a host of other chemical manufacturers, alleging that he developed his cancer was caused by firefighting foam used for years during training and response exercises.

Cyril Long filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on on April 7, indicating that chemicals contained in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) directly caused his development of prostate cancer.

Firefighting foam is widely used to combat fuel based fires, and has been a major part of firefighter training for decades, and contains high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are commonly described as “forever chemicals” since they do not naturally breakdown. The chemicals can bioaccumulate in the body and environment, and have been linked to a number of serious health conditions for former firefighters and instructors.

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The lawsuit indicates that Long worked for Marion County Fire District #1 in Salem, Oregon from 1975 through 1982, then Long worked as a fire service training instructor with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection from 1984 through 2007. Through both jobs, he was exposed numerous times to training foam which contained PFAS.

In May 2007, Long was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and required a radical prostatectomy, as well as radiation therapy in September 2009.

“Defendants’ defective design of the fluorochemical products was far more dangerous than Plaintiff or an ordinary consumer would expect when used, as Plaintiff did, in an intended and reasonably foreseeable manner,” Long’s lawsuit states. “Defendants could have manufactured, marketed, and sold alternative designs or formulations of products that did not contain harmful fluorochemicals. These alternative designs and/or formulations were available, practical, and technologically feasible.”

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.

Long’s case joins hundreds of similar firefighter cancer lawsuits filed over the manufacturers’ failure to warn about the long-term risks associated with exposure to the chemicals during training and response exercises, including claims over prostate cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other cancers. Lawsuits have also been filed on behalf of 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 firefighter cancer settlements or another resolution for the lawsuits is not reached following coordinated pretrial proceedings, hundreds of individual claims may later be remanded to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate jury trials.

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