AFFF Kidney Cancer Lawsuit Filed By Firefighter Exposed to PFAS-Containing Foam During Career

Chemical and safety equipment manufacturers currently face thousands of lawsuits brought by firefighters, who say they were never warned that AFFF may cause kidney cancer, testicular cancer and other injuries.

A retired Arkansas firefighter indicates in a recently filed lawsuit that he developed kidney cancer from exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contained in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which was used throughout his career during training and response exercises.

The complaint (PDF) was brought by Ricky Cranford, Sr. in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on June 14, pursuing damages from numerous different chemical and safety equipment manufacturers, indicating that the defendants failed to warn firefighters of the dangers of AFFF, putting first responders at risk of kidney cancer, testicular cancer and other illnesses.

AFFF has been widely used for decades to fight fuel-based fires, containing various PFAS chemicals intended to resist grease, oil and water. However, there is now increasing evidence that exposure to PFAS-containing foam increases the risk of various different side effects, since the chemicals can build up inside the body.

3M Company, DuPont, Chemguard, Inc., Tyco Fire Products and other manufacturers of chemicals and fire safety products now face thousands of AFFF cancer lawsuits brought by firefighters, as well as PFAS water contamination lawsuits brought by residents living in areas around airports, military bases and firefighter training locations, where large volumes of the chemicals polluted the drinking water.

Firefighting Foam Lawsuits

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Cranford’s lawsuit indicates that he was exposed to toxic firefighter foam from 1996 to 2024 while working as a firefighter for the North Little Rock, Arkansas Fire Department.

The complaint indicates that, at no point during his career, did the manufacturers of AFFF products warn firefighters that the foam contained potentially toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. Through deceptive marketing and false statements, the manufacturers led firefighters worldwide to believe that their standard protective equipment would protect them from AFFF exposure, which has not been the case, according to the lawsuit.

Cranford was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2014, and his lawsuit indicates the cancer developed as a direct and proximate result of exposure to the PFAS-containing foam used throughout his career.

“PFAS are highly toxic and carcinogenic chemicals,” Cranford’s lawsuit states. “Defendants knew, or should have known, that PFAS remain in the human body while presenting significant health risks to humans.”

The lawsuit presents claims for negligence, battery, strict product liability, defective design, failure to warn, fraudulent concealment, and breach of express and implied warranty. Cranford is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

June 2024 PFAS Exposure Lawsuit Update

Cranford’s lawsuit comes as AFFF manufacturers face thousands of other PFAS exposure complaints currently being pursued in the federal court system, which are centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in the District of South Carolina, where Cranford’s lawsuit has also been filed. Judge Gergel is overseeing coordinated discovery and a series of early bellwether trials to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will likely be repeated throughout the litigation.

Last year, Judge Gergel issued a case management order directing the parties to prepare a group of 28 PFAS injury claims to serve as a bellwether pool, which will be prepared for a series of early trial dates. The initial bellwether trials will focus on plaintiffs who say they were exposed to PFAS through drinking contaminated water, as opposed to direct exposure claims brought by firefighters.

The personal injury bellwether claims will include eight AFFF kidney cancer lawsuits, eight testicular cancer claims, eight thyroid disease claims and four ulcerative colitis claims involving individuals exposed to contaminated water near Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster.

While the outcome of these early bellwether trials will not have any binding impact on other claims, it is expected that the amount of any PFAS exposure lawsuit payout awarded by juries may influence future firefighter cancer settlement negotiations to resolve the litigation.

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