Residents of a West Virginia community are pursuing a class action lawsuit against several manufacturers of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), better known as firefighting foam. The lawsuit includes allegations that the foam, used to fight fires at the West Virginia Air National Guard base, contained toxic chemicals that contaminated drinking water supplies in the community and exposed residents to an increased risk of cancer and other possible side effects. If you have been diagnosed with cancer or another serious medical condition and you believe exposure to toxic firefighter foam to be the cause, don’t hesitate to seek legal help. You may be able to file a firefighting foam cancer lawsuit against the manufacturer in order to pursue financial compensation for your injuries.
A growing number of lawsuits are being filed in courts across the country on behalf of firefighters, U.S. military servicemembers and others exposed to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a synthetic foam solution widely used for years by the U.S. military, local fire departments, commercial airports and others to extinguish jet fuel and petroleum fires. In addition to those exposed to toxic chemicals from AFFF use on the job, communities located close to U.S. military bases and other sites where AFFF was sprayed to fight fires may also be at risk for side effects from exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) like perfluorooctane acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Known as “forever chemicals,” these chemicals take thousands of years to degrade. They can accumulate in blood and tissues in the human body and increase the risk of certain cancers, including testicular, bladder, kidney, pancreatic and prostate cancers.
This latest firefighter foam lawsuit was filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, by plaintiffs Mike Stengel, Sondra Maragugilio and a minor identified as C.S. According to the claim, drinking water in the city of Martinsburg was contaminated by PFAS due to years of using AFFF to fight fires at the West Virginia Air National Guard Base. The lawsuit names as defendants firefighter foam manufacturers 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products L.P., The Ansul Company, National Foam, Buckeye Fire Equipment Co., Chemguard, Dupont and Chemours, and seeks damages for personal injuries and medical monitoring on behalf of those exposed to the tainted drinking water, which tested positive for levels of PFAS above the EPA’s recommended exposure limit since at least 2014.
AFFF is a specialized foam that has been used for decades to suppress petroleum-based fires and for training and fire response exercises nationwide. The PFAS in AFFF not only remain and persist for long periods of time in the environment and human body, they can also travel long distances, move through the soil, seep into groundwater or be carried through the air by wind and rain. According to the class action lawsuit, “Defendants collectively designed, marketed, developed, manufactured, distributed, released, trained users, produced instructional materials, sold and/or otherwise handled and/or used AFFF with knowledge that it contained highly toxic and long lasting PFAS, which would contaminate Plaintiffs’ blood and/or body […].” The lawsuit also states that “In May 2014, the City of Martinsburg conducted PFOS/PFOA sampling of its water supply under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule Phase 3 (‘UCMR3’) and detected PFOS in the Big Springs well at 74 parts per trillion (ppt). Another test in May 2016 showed PFOA at 114 ppt and PFOA at 20 ppt, above the current Environmental Protection Agency Health Advisory of 70 ppt.”
In 2016, the EPA issued Health Advisories for PFOS and PFOA, to provide information on two contaminants that can cause adverse health effects for humans and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. At that time, the agency established the health advisory levels for PFOS and PFOA at 70 parts per trillion, “to provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a life-time exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water.” Prior to that, in 2012, the EPA identified PFOS and PFOA as “emerging contaminants,” or chemicals associated with a “perceived, potential or real threat to human health or the environment or by a lack of published health standards.” A growing body of research has sought to assess the possible health effects of exposure to PFAS, linking the “forever chemicals” to a host of potentially life-threatening side effects, including testicular cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and thyroid disease.
Military bases, manufacturing facilities, wastewater treatment plants and fuel-spill sites have all been identified as potential locations for PFAS contamination from the use of AFFF. As a result of toxic PFAS exposure, communities nearby these locations have suffered negative health effects, property damage and damages to natural resources. According to this new class action lawsuit, “The testing [conducted in 2014 and 2016] showed that the Plaintiffs had been exposed to AFFF containing PFAS through their drinking water and suffered personal injuries as a result.” If you or someone you love was exposed to AFFF as a firefighter or resident of a community located close to a site where AFFF was used by the military, contact an experienced AFFF injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the makers of toxic firefighting foam.