May 29, 2020

Military Exposure to Toxic Firefighting Foam

For military firefighters, aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) has been a staple in fighting fires on military bases. In the 1970’s the Department of defense began using AFFF to fight fuel fighters, and firefighting foam has been used in the military for both training to fight and fighting actual fires. For decades military firefighters actively handled and were exposed to AFFF on a daily basis, service members under the impression that the foam was not a hazard to their own health.

However, unknown to military firefighters, for nearly 60 years AFFF foam has contained toxic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals, while highly durable and effective in smothering fires, have been found to increase exposed individuals’ risk of a number of severe health conditions, namely cancer. In recent years increasing numbers of military firefighters have discovered their testicular, kidney, and liver cancers were caused by their exposure to PFAS in firefighting foam.

If you or a loved one was exposed to PFAS in firefighting foam while serving in the military, you may be at an increased risk of developing cancer. We are currently investigating claims on behalf of both civilian and military firefighters who developed cancer after being exposed to PFAS in firefighting foam.

PFAS in Military Firefighting Foam

For decades the military has used firefighting foam containing PFAS, highly resistant man-made chemicals. Reportedly the U.S. Navy developed AFFF in the 1960’s, and since it has been used by military firefighters, mainly for fires involving jet fuel and gasoline. Structurally PFAS are designed to be resistant to oil, grease, water, and heat, making them effective in smothering fires.

However, studies link exposure to PFAS to a number of health concerns, some of them deadly. Because of their durable nature, PFAS have been found to build up inside of the body and not break down over time, causing concerning side effects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorized PFAS as an “emerging contaminant,” and have even linked the PFAS exposure to certain cancers. Firefighters who have come forward with firefighting foam lawsuits claim PFAS in AFF caused cancer diagnoses including testicular, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer.

In December 2019 the U.S. Senate decided to phase out military use of PFAS-based firefighting foam after recognizing the cancer risk caused by PFAS. However, this phasing out will not start until 2024. According to the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), the military uses 75% of all firefighting foam. In fact, reportedly the U.S. Department of Defense stockpiled thousands of gallons of firefighting foam for military use over the decades. Given the length of time the AFFF containing PFAS has been used in military circles, thousands of military firefighters over the years could be at risk of developing cancer from their exposure to toxic firefighting foam.

Military Firefighters at Risk

recent report states that “Firefighters are particularly at risk from PFAS exposure because they are exposed to AFFF during both training and actual fires.” Military firefighters that belong or used to belong to the following branches of the military may be at an increased risk of developing cancer from PFAS in firefighting foam:

  • Navy
  • Marines
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Air Force
  • Reserves

Were You a Firefighter in the U.S. Military?

If you developed cancer after being exposed to AFFF firefighting foam in the military, don't suffer in silence. Research is showing firefighting foam manufacturers knew about the health risks of PFAS for decades and failed to disclose the risks to the public. Their negligence should not define your suffering; we can help you hold them accountable for their failure to protect you. To see if you may be entitled to compensation for your firefighting foam injuries, contact the advocates with Justice for Firefighters today. We offer free, no-obligation case evaluations and have legal representatives standing by 24/7 for your convenience.

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