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A former volunteer firefighter has filed a lawsuit over a cancer diagnosis allegedly caused by frequent exposures to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) during his career.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Slade Giles in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on September 4, presenting claims against various manufacturers of equipment and chemicals used in the the firefighting foam, alleging that firefighters were warned about the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals contained in the products
Aqueous film-forming foams has been widely used at military bases and by some civilian firefighting organizations throughout the United States, involving the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are toxic and carcinogenic.
The complaint names 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., Chemours Company, Chubb Fire, Ltd., Arkema, Inc., Du Pont De Nemours Inc., Kidde-Fenwal, Inc., Kidde, National Foam Inc. Tyco Fire Products, and BASF as defendants, indicating that each of the companies had a role in the production or sale of the toxic film-forming foam.
Giles, of California, worked as a volunteer firefighter with the Anderson Fire Protection District in Shasta County from August 2004 through July 2020. According to the lawsuit, he developed testicular cancer as a result of exposure to PFAS in firefighting foam and had a testical removed in September 2018.
“At no point during his trainings or career did he receive any warning that Defendants’ AFFF containing PFOA and/or PFOS and/or their precursor chemicals was toxic or carcinogenic,” the lawsuit notes. “Plaintiff suffered, and continues to suffer, the effects of his illness proximately caused by exposure to Defendants’ fluorochemical products.”
The complaint joins other firefighting foam lawsuits, which have been filed over testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other injuries.
In addition to firefighting foams, PFASs are chemical substances used to manufacture a number of products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and other products. The firefighting foam has been regularly used at military bases nationwide over the past decade during routine fire extinguishing exercises, and is increasingly used by civilian firefighters.
The 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. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.
PFAS 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.
In June 2019, a federal investigation found that PFAS chemicals are commonly found in numerous food products, including meats, seafood, chocolate, cake and other products. However, the FDA released a statement indicating that the levels found do not raise health concerns, based on the best available science.
According to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012, exposure may also suppress the immune system and limit the ability of the body to create antibodies in response to childhood vaccines.
In December 2018, all firefighting foam exposure lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.