Firefighters put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Unfortunately, countless firefighters and others have been exposed to dangerous chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals have been used in firefighting foam since about the 1950s. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now considers them to be “emerging contaminants,” meaning they could pose a danger to human health.
If you or a loved one have developed health problems after coming into contact with firefighting foam, you may be entitled to compensation. Although firefighters are at a particular risk for PFAS exposure, workers in other fields could also be in danger. Understanding the health hazards, and your legal options, is essential to recovering the damages you deserve. Disability Law Group is committed to helping victims fight for justice, and we can work for you.
What Are PFAS?
Firefighters use a chemical foam, known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), to more effectively extinguish fires. AFFF is used to douse a burning substance and cut off the oxygen it needs to burn. PFAS were added to the foam in order to help smother the fire. PFAS include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). These chemicals are extremely hard to break down, which means they stay in the human body for a long time.
AFFF has now been linked to several health problems. Military firefighters are at an exceptional risk due to the widespread and long-term use of AFFF at military facilities. Commercial airports also required use of the suppressant for decades.
Health Risks Of PFAS
Regulatory and governmental agencies, in addition to many other organizations, have begun sounding the alarm on PFAS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the American Cancer Society (ACS) point out that PFAS may be linked to different types of cancer in firefighters and others. EPA uses the term “emerging contaminants” to indicate the health risks of these chemicals. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has also started warning veterans who may have been exposed to firefighting foam at military facilities.
There are numerous health problems associated with PFAS, including the following:
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Breast cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumors
- Fertility problems
- Immune system disorders
Because PFAS does not break down over long periods of time, they tend to bioaccumulate in humans. The problems caused by these chemicals, therefore, tend to get worse as people grow older.
PFAS and Environmental Contamination
In addition to health hazards posed by direct exposure to PFAS, there is growing evidence that these substances contaminate soil and water. When firefighting foam is used, AFFF can get dispersed into the environment. Many PFAS are soluble in water, which allows them to move quickly through groundwater. PFAS can, therefore, seep into the soil and water that surround military bases and other facilities where AFFF is used.
Due to the chemical stability of PFAS, it is difficult to eradicate the substance from the environment. Drinking water and soil may be contaminated, affecting what people eat and drink. When these chemicals enter drains, they can travel to remote places. AFFF can leak or spill from storage locations as well.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization specializing in research and advocacy involving toxic chemicals, estimates that there are over 600 locations of AFFF exposure in 43 states. These locations include airports, military facilities, refineries, fuel tanks, and other industrial sites. The U.S. Department of Defense has identified over 400 military sites that have been potentially contaminated with firefighting foam chemicals.
Who May Have Been Exposed To PFAS?
Anyone working in the above locations and industries may have been exposed to PFAS. Until 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration required the use of foam with PFAS. Although the military is currently phasing out the use of these chemicals, countless military personnel may have already come into contact with them.
Those who are considered to be at potential risk of PFA exposure include:
- Firefighters, including those retired
- Veterans and active servicemen and women
- Other workers at military facilities
- First responders
- Industrial workers where PFAS were manufactured or used
- Workers at refineries
- Private citizens living near any contaminated locations
How A Firefighting Foam Veterans Disability Attorney Can Help You
Because of the widespread use of firefighting foam, numerous people may have developed the above illnesses and diseases without a clear understanding of why. The first thing you should do is seek medical attention for any condition, and begin saving your medical records for later.
Next, document any potentially contaminated locations where you have worked or may have otherwise come into contact with PFAS. You can check with EWG and other sources on specific locations where PFAS are known to be a problem. You will need to link your medical condition with exposure to firefighting foam or another source of PFAS, so it is recommended that you begin compiling this information now.
Numerous product liability lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of firefighting foam. These lawsuits have alleged, among other claims, that the companies failed to warn users and other victims of the health hazards posed by PFAS. The exact type of lawsuit that you may file will depend on the nature of your exposure and other facts in your case.
Damages you may be able to recover include those related to:
- Medical bills and other expenses
- Prescription drugs
- Lost time from work
- Decreased work capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Other damages as appropriate in your case
Contact Disability Law Group Today
Our firm is currently investigating cancer and other claims related to exposure to PFAS and firefighting foam. We have the expertise and passion to help you win your service-connected veterans disability benefits that you deserve. If there is additional compensation that you may be entitled to, rest assured we will look at every aspect of your case to ensure you understand your rights and benefits. If you or a loved one have been harmed by PFAS, it’s important for you to take action right away. There may be time or other limitations to your ability to recover.
Call Disability Law Group today. Our dedicated and compassionate team will review your claims and demand the compensation you deserve.