Firefighters play a crucial role in protecting communities and combating fires. To extinguish fuel-based fires effectively, aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), or firefighter foam, has been widely used by different branches of the U.S. military and local firefighting departments for decades. However, recent lawsuits allege that manufacturers of AFFF used by military and civilian firefighters failed to warn local communities and water suppliers about the human health risks associated with AFFF chemicals leaching into the drinking water. To learn more about the health problems associated with AFFF contamination in drinking water or to find out if you may be eligible to file a firefighter foam water contamination lawsuit for cancer, ulcerative colitis, or another medical issue, contact Consumer Safety Watch today.
Several lawsuits have been filed against chemical and safety equipment manufacturers like 3M Company and DuPont, claiming that AFFF contamination has caused significant health issues, particularly ulcerative colitis, among residents exposed to the contaminated drinking water. Marye Smith, a current resident of Willingboro, New Jersey, brought a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina last week, asserting that 3M, DuPont, and other companies knew about the risks of AFFF water contamination but failed to warn firefighters and communities near areas where the firefighter foam was used.
Aqueous film-forming foam is a fire suppressant that contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of chemical compounds known as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment and the human body. PFAS can accumulate in water supplies and pose long-term risks to human health. A growing number of AFFF water contamination lawsuits allege that runoff from firefighter training and response exercises has led to the contamination of drinking water in communities nationwide, particularly near military bases, airports, and training locations where AFFF was used.
Exposure to harmful PFAS chemicals found in AFFF has been linked to a number of serious health risks, including ulcerative colitis and an increased risk of cancer. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease characterized by severe inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and an increased risk of colon cancer. The ability of PFAS to persist in the human body exposes individuals to ongoing risks and potential disease flare-ups.
Marye Smith alleges in her lawsuit that she developed ulcerative colitis as a result of consuming water that was contaminated with the defendants’ AFFF products. “Based upon information and belief, Defendants’ fluorochemical products were used in a manner resulting in the contamination of the water supply in New Jersey and the surrounding areas,” states the complaint. “As a result of drinking water contaminated with Defendants’ fluorochemical products, Plaintiff developed and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which has caused Plaintiff to suffer, and continue to suffer, severe personal injuries, pain, and emotional distress, including embarrassment and fear of public incontinence.”
Thousands of lawsuits have already been brought against AFFF manufacturers by individuals directly exposed to the chemicals and those who consumed contaminated water. To address common questions of fact and law, pretrial proceedings have been established in the federal court system. U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel is overseeing the coordination of discovery and early bellwether trials in the District of South Carolina. These trials will focus on representative personal injury claims, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis claims.
In June 2023, 3M Company reached a settlement of over $12.5 billion to resolve claims brought by local water suppliers affected by AFFF water contamination. However, no reported settlements have been reached in lawsuits filed by former military service members or firefighters, and individual claims have not yet gone before a jury. The outcomes of the AFFF exposure bellwether trials may influence the average payout in future settlements and provide guidance for the resolution of individual lawsuits.
The widespread use of AFFF by both military and civilian fire departments has raised serious concerns about its environmental impact and the need for stricter regulations. The U.S. Department of Defense conducted assessments of PFAS contamination on military bases nationwide and found more than 200 military installations with known or suspected discharges of toxic fluorinated chemicals, highlighting issues concerning residents’ potential exposure to PFAS in drinking water or groundwater on or near the affected bases. Environmental groups argue that the number of contaminated military installations is far higher than reported – likely exceeding 700 installations and affecting a significant population of U.S. citizens. The ongoing lawsuits and increased awareness of the health risks associated with AFFF contamination may lead to stricter regulations and efforts to mitigate the environmental impact.
The allegations against AFFF manufacturers like 3M and DuPont highlight the potential health risks associated with toxic PFAS chemicals leaching into drinking water. AFFF contamination has led to lawsuits filed by individuals and communities affected by long-term exposure to PFAS chemicals, resulting in health problems like ulcerative colitis and an increased risk of cancer. If you believe you have been adversely affected by the direct use of firefighter foam or by AFFF contamination in drinking water, it is important to seek legal assistance from a qualified attorney specializing in AFFF and PFAS exposure lawsuits. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate your case, provide guidance on your legal options, and help you pursue compensation for any damages or injuries caused by AFFF contamination.