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Lawsuits Alleges Firefighting Foam Tainted Water Supply

Concerns over the safety of military firefighting foam, which some say can cause cancer and other diseases, has resulted in a number lawsuits over drinking water contamination in recent months. 

At least 10 complaints have been filed since 2015, claiming 3M Company, formerly known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, knew or should have known of the hazards associated with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) exposure within its aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which has been used by the military over the last several decades during routine fire extinguishing exercises at military bases across the nation.

At least 15 people living next to an airport in Southampton, New Jersey recently filed a firefighting foam class-action suit, claiming their drinking water has been contaminated with PFCs by the military exercises over the last several decades due to the chemicals seeping into the ground.

The complaint alleges that 3M and others involved knew or should have known of the harm that could be caused by PFC exposure. Evidence of the harmful nature of the chemical exposure is cited within the claim, indicating internal reviews of personnel safety at the 3M plant recorded in the mid 1980’s. The lawsuit alleges 3M withheld safety information from purchasers and failed to warn of the exposure dangers or negative impacts that could be caused to the environment.

According to a recent report by Bloomberg News, attorneys indicate that hundreds, if not thousands, of additional individuals who are similarly situated may join the class-action or file individual lawsuits over health risks caused by firefighting foam that has tainted water supplies.

At least two sites have already been found to be contaminated, including Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake, Virginia, and Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey. PFCs were found in the drinking water at Fentress, but only in the groundwater, and not drinking water, at Earle station. However, the firefighter foam was recorded to have been used at least 664 sites where fire training and crash training exercises were conducted nationwide, potentially contaminating the ground water and drinking water supplies in hundreds of military bases and local surrounding communities.

Exposure to PFCs has been linked to a risk of tumors, neonatal death, liver toxicity, immune system problems, disruption of the human endocrine system, as well as a potential risk of prostate, kidney and testicular cancers.

Recent research by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests human exposure to PFCs may lead to a number of adverse effects, including reproductive, developmental and systemic adverse effects, low birth weight, accelerated puberty, and immune and thyroid disorders.

According to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012, PFC exposure may also suppress the immune system and limit the ability of the body to create antibodies in response to childhood vaccines.

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