Fire Fighter Putting out fire using fire-fighting foam

Firefighter Foam Exposure Injuries 

Harris & Associates, P.C., L.L.O. Dec. 20, 2022

Beginning with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in the 1970s, firefighting techniques started incorporating the use of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) to suppress oxygen from the blaze. As the years rolled by, however, it became clear that using foam could cause cancer and other diseases among those who were exposed to it, not only the firefighters but even innocent bystanders. 

Flash forward to 2022, and the manufacturers of AFFF continue to be under legal pressure because of the dangerous side effects of their products’ use. DuPont and 3M, the primary manufacturers, are facing lawsuits even though they phased out production in 2002 of the AFFF compound that was believed to be carcinogenic and otherwise dangerous to people’s health.  

By 2006, other manufacturers had also ceased production of PFOS, or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, the substance in the foam that was so dangerous. PFOS is one of several related chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The two abbreviations are often used when discussing AFFF to underscore the dangers inherent in the foam’s use. 

In 2017, DuPont and Chemours paid out $670.7 million in a settlement for 3,550 PFOS lawsuits filed in West Virginia. In 2020, DuPont settled for $50 million for a single lawsuit from a man who suffered testicular cancer from PFOS exposure. Just recently in June and July of 2022, 115 new AFFF firefighting lawsuits were filed, bringing the total nationwide to 2,700.  

If you or a loved one has developed a disease or other condition that you believe is a result of your firefighting duties in or around Omaha, Nebraska, contact us immediately at Harris & Associates, P.C., L.L.O. We will investigate, advise you of your best path forward, and represent you in your effort to receive just compensation for your injury or illness. 

In addition to Omaha, we also proudly serve clients in the surrounding counties of Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge, and Lancaster. 

What Is Firefighting Foam? 

PFAS are found in a wide range of consumer household products and industrial products. PFOS is a PFAS compound used in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). 

AFFF is used in firefighting to help suppress oxygen from the fire, which reduces the time and effort needed to extinguish the blaze. However, as noted earlier, AFFF also poses health risks to firefighters and anyone else in the vicinity.  

AFFF is used not only by firefighters but also for its fire-suppressing qualities in chemical plants, on offshore oil rigs, at military bases, on naval ships, at gas refineries, in bus and truck fleets, and even on commercial airlines. 

‘Forever Chemicals’ and Their Inherent Dangers 

PFAS and PFOS are known as “forever chemicals” because they tend to stay at the site of their deployment and can even infuse drinking water long after their initial use. In fact, PFAS are highly mobile in the environment and can migrate into the groundwater, extending their deadly reach. As a result, PFAS have even been found in the Arctic. 

Studies have shown a positive association between exposure and thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, and fetal growth retardation resulting in low birth weights. Studies have also shown a link to certain types of cancer, including bladder, kidney, liver, prostate, pancreatic, and testicular cancer.  

Recovering Damages and Pursuing Compensation 

Generally speaking, if you fall ill due to workplace conditions or suffer an injury at work, you have to turn to your workers’ compensation insurance to receive compensation. In Nebraska, even volunteer firefighters are covered by workers’ compensation. Since workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, you cannot sue your employer. You’re left to the limits of the workers’ compensation system to receive benefits. 

However, third parties can be sued, and firefighting foam is definitely a product supplied by third parties such as DuPont, 3M, and others. As you can see from the 2,700 AFFF lawsuits that have been filed, the highest possible level of compensation available is through a successful lawsuit. 

Highly Skilled Legal Counsel: Harris & Associates, P.C., L.L.O. 

If you or a loved one suspects an illness or debilitating condition is the result of exposure to AFFF, contact Harris & Associates, P.C., L.L.O. immediately. Firefighters are first responders who put their lives on the line each time they are called to the scene, and as such, they deserve the finest care and consideration for the sacrifices they’ve made.  

Let us investigate and advise you of your legal options going forward. We will be happy to aggressively represent you as you pursue the just compensation due to you.