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AFFF Firefighting Foam Cancer

Firefighting foams contain synthetic chemicals referred to as PFAS that pose serious health risks, including numerous types of cancer.  Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) products are typically made from or refer to perfluoroalkyl substances and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are commonly manufactured and distributed by 3M, Tyco, Dupont, Chemgaurd, Buckeye Fire Equipment, and National Foam.


These chemicals are commonly used by civilian firefighters as well as at airports and by the military to combat petroleum-based fires since the 1960’s. When released into the environment, the chemicals in AFFF firefighting foam may contaminate soil, surface water, and groundwater. Often entering drain systems that can carry the chemicals to various remote locations.


PFAS chemicals can enter and accumulate in the human body through water consumption or other forms of exposure, putting those who are exposed at risk of developing serious health problems including cancer. Several types of cancer have been linked to PFAS agents including kidney (renal), pancreatic, bladder, prostate, breast, testicular and certain forms of blood-born cancer in addition to neuroendocrine tumors.


A federal inquiry in 2018 determined that PFAS chemicals were far more dangerous than initially reported. This determination led to the revision and new recommendations for safe levels of AFFF exposure. The EPA has classified PFAs as an “emerging contaminant”. Other government organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have noted that certain PFAS may be linked to cancer in firefighters. In February 2020 the EPA issued a first of its kind ‘Action Plan’ to address concerns over PFAS chemicals.


In January of 2021, US District of South Carolina Judge Richard Gergel approved a $17.5 million class-action settlement over suits brought against Tyco Fire Products over water contamination in a Wisconsin community. Judge Gergel was also appointed to oversee lawsuits consolidated into MDL #2873 in January of 2019.

Important Links:


  1. https://www.internationalairportreview.com/article/98795/fire-fighting-foam-chemicals-water/
  2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-11/documents/lgac-pfas_report-nov-2018.pdf
  3. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-01/documents/pfas_action_plan_feb2020.pdf
  4. https://today.westlaw.com/Document/Id559c890511b11ebba44de9134b0efd7/View/FullText.html?transitionType=SearchItem&contextData=(sc.Default)
  5. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-21-421.pdf
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/15/maine-law-pfas-forever-chemicals-ban

MDL Links:

  1. https://www.scd.uscourts.gov/mdl-2873/index.asp