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A firefighter from Georgia has filed a product liability lawsuit against numerous chemical and safety equipment manufacturing companies, indicating his exposure to aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs), both during training and actual firefighting events, led to the development of cancer.
Kevin Morgan filed the complaint (PDF) on March 24 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, naming 3M Company, BASF Corp., Du Pont and several other companies as defendants.
According to the lawsuit, Morgan worked as a volunteer firefighter for the Pasco County Fire Rescue Department in Florida from 2004 through 2008, and currently works for the City of Savannah Fire and Emergency Services in Georgia, where he has been a full time firefighter since 2009.
In both jobs, Morgan used firefighter foams which contained per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are known to be toxic. As a result of exposure to the foam, he indicates he developed cancer, which was diagnosed in 2016.
“During this time, he used AFFF containing PFAS in firefighting training and response exercises, and used equipment/gear treated and/or coated with materials containing and/or contaminated with one or more PFAS,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff Kevin Morgan was exposed to AFFF containing PFAS numerous times over the course of his career, and now has one or more PFAS materials in his blood serum.”
Experts indicate PFAS chemicals contained in AFFF may 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.
Morgan’s complaint joins hundreds of other 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.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, the cases are all centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
In addition to individual firefighter cancer lawsuits, the litigation also includes complaints filed by individuals diagnosed with cancer after years of drinking water contaminated from the use of the film-forming foam at military bases, airports and other training sites. A number of film-forming foam class action lawsuits have also been filed over costs associated with cleaning up the toxic chemicals from local water supplies.
As part of the coordinated management of the litigation, it is expected Judge Gergel will prepare a small group of “bellwether” cases for early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims, and which companies are ultimately held accountable for this emerging health disaster among firefighters and communities nationwide.