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A former firefighter has filed a product liability lawsuit over prostate cancer, which was allegedly caused by exposure to toxic chemicals in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) that were commonly used during training exercises and in response to certain fuel-based fires during his career.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Joel LaRocco in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina on November 18, alleging that various manufacturers sold an unreasonably dangerous product and failed to warn firefighters about the risk that carcinogenic chemicals contained in the firefighting foam may build up in their body, increasing the risk of cancer and other health problems.
LaRocco indicates he was regularly exposed to AFFF containing carcinogenic polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) while working as a firefighter at U.S. Coast Guard stations for 26 years. He was also exposed to the chemicals through equipment or materials coated with one or more PFAS.
According to the lawsuit, LaRocco claims that at no point was he warned about the potential health risks posed by the chemicals in the fire foam, and as direct result of exposure to the film-forming products sold by the defendants, now has PFAS materials in his blood serum. As a result, LaRocco indicates he was diagnosed with prostate cancer from the firefighting foam exposure.
The film-forming foams have been widely used in prior decades at military bases and by various firefighting organizations. LaRocco claims the manufacturers knew about the risk of bioaccumulation, toxicity and other harmful side effects, yet intentionally failing to disclosure the information to firefighters and regulators.
PFAS chemicals contained in AFFF 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 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.
LaRocco’s complaint joins a number of firefighting foam lawsuits filed across the nation, all raising similar allegations of the manufacturers failing to warn of the dangerous PFAS, which have resulted in those exposed to develop testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other injuries.
Due to the growing number of lawsuits over firefighting foam injuries brought throughout the federal court system, centralized pretrial proceedings have been established in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, where the parties are engaging in coordinated discovery and preparing for a series of early “bellwether” trials that are designed to gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated in claims brought by firefighters nationwide.