PFAS Water Contamination Lawsuit Filed By 33 Plaintiffs Over Illnesses and Property Damage From Firefighter Foam
More than 30 plaintiffs have filed a firefighting foam water contamination lawsuit, indicating that they suffered severe illnesses and property damage due to the use of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The complaint (PDF) was filed this week in the Supreme Court of New York, pursuing damages against a number of chemical and safety equipment manufacturers, such as 3M Company, Kidde-Fenwal, the Chemours Company and others involved the manufacture and sale of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which has been widely used for decades to combat fuel based fires, and has been a major part of firefighter training.
Firefighter foam contains high levels of PFAS, which are commonly described as “forever chemicals” since they do not naturally breakdown and can bioaccumulate in the body and environment, causing a number of serious health conditions among former firefighters and instructors.
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.
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The lawsuit claims that at least 33 plaintiffs included in the complaint were unwittingly exposed to PFAS due to water supply contamination, caused by the use of firefighter foam and other PFAS-containing products, which leached into wells and groundwater.
“Since its creation in the 1960s, AFFF designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and/or sold by Defendants, and/or that contained fluorosurfactants and/or PFCs designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and/or sold by Defendants, used as directed and intended by Defendants, and subsequently released into the environment during fire protection, training, and response activities, resulting in widespread PFAS contamination,” the lawsuit states. “Due to this contamination, Plaintiffs have suffered real personal injuries, bioaccumulation of PFAS in their bodies, property damage and the diminution in value of their properties as a result of the release of PFAS to their water supplies.”
Each of the plaintiffs lived near military bases, and in some cases were former military personnel who lived on the bases themselves, where toxic firefighter foam was regularly used during training exercises. As a result of the exposure, plaintiffs indicate they have suffered a variety of injuries, including kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma. Liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma, prostate cancer, thyroid disease and a host of other ailments. In addition, they say their properties have lost value due to the water supply contamination.
The complaint joins hundreds of similar firefighter PFAS foam lawsuits filed over the manufacturers’ failure to warn about the long-term risks associated with exposure to the chemicals. Many of the lawsuits have been filed by former firefighters, while other claims, such as this latest one, have been filed by those who lived near where such chemicals were used.
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 PFAS 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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