The life of a firefighter is anything but safe. Most people think about the burns and scars that might occur when they march into a property to diffuse fire and save people. They have protective gear, and they use firefighting foam, which helps them accomplish their job. But the tragic part is that what they use as their firefighting equipment and gear is what causes maximum damage to them. The protective gear that firefighters wear has AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam), and they use this foam for extinguishing flammable liquids. AFFF contains PFAS (Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances), also called ‘forever chemicals’, that accumulate in the environment and the human body, resulting in multiple types of cancer and other debilitating diseases.
Most firefighters inhale PFAS when they are on duty. That aside, the chemicals also get absorbed into their skin from their protective gear, which results in a host of physical hazards that they realize mostly after years when the damage has already been done.
In this article, we will shed light on the types of cancer caused by AFFF exposure and the ways firefighters can opt for both medical and legal remedies.
AFFF Exposure and Cancer: Understanding the Link
PFAS chemicals present in AFFF can accumulate in the environment and result in ample environmental contamination, which comprises mostly water contamination. In September 2023, the NJ Spotlight News reported that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had discovered that 28 utilities in New Jersey had toxic chemicals that were fatal to human health.
Even though these utilities had catered to health-based requirements of the state, two PFAS chemicals, mostly PFOA and PFOS exceeded the strict levels stated by the EPA for these chemicals. It is even possible for PFAS to stay accumulated in the soil for close to a thousand years. The time for degradation in water is quick and is calculated to be close to 40 years.
Additionally, several species present in the food chain might absorb these substances from their immediate environment. Humans who consume these species tend to absorb increased amounts of PFAS and can be exposed to the presence of these chemicals through breast milk.
Water contamination caused by AFFF exposure in training facilities, military camps, airports, and various other locations has made the U.S. government pay close to billions of dollars to initiate water treatment campaigns.
A few years ago, the water close to the Air Force base located in Delaware contained PFAS chemicals. The percentage was 2000 times more than the health guidelines recommended by the EPA for secure and healthy drinking water. As a result, the residents located in Hoosick Falls, New York, filed their respective lawsuits against the AFFF manufacturers.
The lawsuits mentioned that the factories were responsible for contaminating the drinking water supply in the town. The parties involved had settled their class-action lawsuit for an amount of over $60 million.
Cancers Caused by AFFF Exposure
For close to 30 years now, medical candidates have been consistently coming up with studies and analogies that prove PFAS can result in life-threatening ailments. People who record more than the average PFAS volume in their bloodstream often suffer from cancer and other diseases.
Some of the prominent cancer types include:
- Testicular cancer
- Kidney or renal cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Endometrial or uterine cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Breast cancer
- Liver cancer
Firefighters and military professionals who have been affected by any of these cancers can file their firefighter foam cancer lawsuits to seek the compensation they need to cover the economic and non-economic damages. But before they go on to do that, they must seek the correct medical aid.
Medical Assistance After AFFF Exposure
Anyone affected by AFFF exposure will not know or realize it immediately. The symptoms will start surfacing gradually, which is essential to address with the correct medical treatment without delay. For instance, people who were diagnosed with liver cancer due to PFAS in their bloodstream have had symptoms like abdominal pain, sudden weakness, weight loss, shoulder pain, and so on.
Individuals must keep track of their symptoms and physical unease. When they feel that what they are undergoing is sudden and might have a link to AFFF exposure, they need to get the correct medical tests done and start the treatment before the disease gets aggravated and out of hand.
Once they have medical proof that the ailment is a result of the toxic PFAS chemical in their body, they can continue their treatment and seek legal recourse.
Opting for a Legal Solution
As of January 2024, 88 new cases were added to the class action MDL. AFFF is the only mass tort MDL that has seen the addition of a profound number of recent cases all through the holiday season. In total, there are close to 6,715 pending cases.
Hence, once it’s established that your disease is due to AFFF exposure and you have medical documents to support it, you can file a lawsuit. The best way to get this done is by joining hands with a lawyer who has the necessary know-how and experience to help you and ensure you don’t face any legal hassles.
TorHoerman Law states that it is essential for victims to share all the evidence with their lawyer so they can assess and analyze the ones that they can use to build a strong case. Anything from your medical records, exposure duration, and testimonials from others who are willing to share their account counts as proof. The lawyer will use it all effectively to ensure that you get fair compensation and the justice that you deserve.
Filing a lawsuit also involves ample mental challenges, and a lawyer has an essential role to play here. They can provide you with the correct guidance for you to remain calm and act strategically as you pursue your legal case and wait for the compensation.
Finally, it’s a known fact that AFFF exposure will cause a set of ailments in humans due to the presence of PFAS chemicals. Firefighters must look for safer alternatives and restrict the use of protective gear based on necessity. Once it’s established that your ailment results because of the presence of PFAS in your bloodstream, you must seek both medical and legal assistance.