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A former firefighter has filed a lawsuit against dozens of manufacturers and distributors of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), alleging that he developed colon cancer from exposure to toxic chemicals in the products.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Larry Carbo in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on September 15, indicating that 3M Company, Chemours Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment, Du Pont and dozens of other defendants failed to adequately warn firefighters and trainees about the potential risks.
Carbo, of New Orleans, indicates he regularly used the firefighting foam during training exercises and in response to to fires throughout his career. According to the lawsuit, there is a link between his diagnosis of colon cancer and firefighting foam products widely used in recent decades.
Aqueous film-forming foams contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are toxic and known to build up in the body and pose a potential risk of cancer.
“At all relevant times, Defendants encouraged the continued and even further increased use of PFAS by their customers and others, including but not limited to the manufacture, use, and release, of AFFF containing PFAS and/or emergency responder protection gear or equipment coated with materials made with or containing PFAS, and tried to encourage and foster the increased and further use of PFAS in connection with as many products/uses/and applications as possible, despite knowledge of the toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulation concerns associated with such activities,” Carbo’s lawsuit states. “To this day, Defendants deny that the presence of any PFAS in human blood, at any level, is an injury or presents any harm or risk of harm of any kind, or is otherwise of any legal, toxicological, or medical significance.”
PFAS 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. The chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and have been found to contaminate waters sources near military bases, airports and other locations where the anti-fire foam is regularly used.
Some estimate suggest that the chemicals may be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population. However, the level of exposure among firefighters is believed to be substantially higher.
The complaint filed by Carbo joins other firefighting foam lawsuits, which have been filed over testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other injuries.
Since December 2018, all complaints involving firefighting foam exposure filed in federal courts nationwide have been centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.