Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Firefighter’s Prostate Cancer Diagnosis From Anti-Foam

Anti-fire foam lawsuit alleges that 30 years of exposure to PFAS chemicals led to a deadly prostate cancer diagnosis.

The estate of a Texas firefighter has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a number of chemical and safety equipment manufacturers, alleging that years of exposure to anti-fire foam led to a fatal prostate cancer diagnosis.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by the Estate of Michal Danielson in South Carolina federal court on February 3. The lawsuit names a host of defendants; some of which include 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, BASF and Dupont De Nemours, Inc. who manufactured firefighting foam which contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are known to be toxic and carcinogenic.

Known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), the anti-fire foam products containing PFAS chemicals have been widely used in recent decades during firefighter training and response exercises involving fuel-based fires.

PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals”, since they are known to bioaccumulate in the body and environment, and do not naturally breakdown, increasing the risk of a number of serious health conditions for former firefighters, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.

According to the firefighter’s wrongful death lawsuit, Danielson worked with the Kilgore Fire Department in Texas from 1979 through 2010, where he was regularly exposed to anti-fire foam products that contained PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which are known to be toxic.

In 2010, Danielson was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which the lawsuit directly blames on side effects of the anti-fire foam exposure. He died of the ailment in February 2020, which the lawsuit indicates could have been avoided.

“During Decedent’s exposure to Defendants’ AFFF products containing PFOA and/or PFOS and/or their precursor chemicals, Plaintiff ingested such products, and the PFOA and/or PFOS and/or their precursor chemicals entered Decedent’s body,” the lawsuit states. “At no point during his trainings or career did Decedent receive any warning that Defendants’ AFFF products containing PFOA and/or PFOS and/or their precursor chemicals were toxic or carcinogenic.”

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.

Danielson’s case joins hundreds of similar anti-fire foam lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals directly exposed to the chemicals while spraying the products during training or response exercises, indicating that the toxic chemicals caused various injuries, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and other cancers.

PFAS water contamination lawsuits are also being pursued by individuals who lived near military bases, airports and other training facilities, where the chemicals have contaminated local drinking water.

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 settlements or another resolution for the lawsuits is not reached following coordinated pretrial proceedings, hundreds of individual claims brought by firefighters and others may later be remanded to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate jury trials.

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