Firefighters have long been regarded as heroes, bravely risking their lives to save others from the destructive force of fires. However, firefighters themselves face a lurking danger in the form of the toxic foam that they use to extinguish fires.
Aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is one of the most popular types of foam used to fight fires. This variety of foam is especially effective against fires caused by flammable liquids such as petroleum.
However, the Washington Department of Ecology notes that this variety of firefighting foam contains PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). PFAS are dangerous substances that have a harmful effect on human health. Long-term exposure can even lead to severe illnesses such as cancer. These reports have caused many affected individuals to file product liability lawsuits against the manufacturer of these products.
These lawsuits have shed light on the alarming health hazards associated with these foams. This has prompted a growing concern among firefighters, environmentalists, and the general public.
In this article, we will highlight the critical issues surrounding aqueous film-forming foam. We will also be discussing its composition, health risks, environmental impact, regulations, lawsuits, and associated health conditions.
AFFF Composition and Usage
Aqueous film-forming foam is a fire suppressant used extensively in various settings, including military bases and chemical plants. It is particularly effective in tackling flammable liquid fires like those involving petroleum products.
AFFF consists of water and additives such as ethylene and propylene glycol, which enhance its performance. It is available in two main formulations, with 3% and 6% water content, depending on specific fire control needs.
PFAS in AFFF
The concerning aspect of AFFF lies in its inclusion of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These synthetic compounds have been in use since the 1950s and are not naturally occurring. PFAS are known to be persistent in the environment and can accumulate in the human body over time. This leads to severe health issues, including cancer, liver damage, and asthma.
Research by the CDC has indicated that PFAS can be found in the blood of most individuals in the U.S. It has been noted that most of these bioaccumulation cases pose minimal risks at low exposure levels. However, prolonged exposure to PFAS, as experienced by certain occupational groups, may result in adverse health effects.
Environmental Impact of AFFF
The use of AFFF has raised significant environmental concerns. PFAS chemicals in AFFF can contaminate water and soil, posing a threat to ecosystems and communities around affected areas.
The persistence of PFAS in the environment makes their removal and cleanup challenging, necessitating serious remediation efforts. Efforts to address this issue include ongoing research into more effective remediation methods and strategies for preventing further environmental contamination.
Regulations and Industry Response
To address the growing concern over PFAS in AFFF, regulatory agencies have taken action. The EPA issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) in January 2021, restricting certain long-chain PFAS compounds.
However, older stock of AFFF may still contain these harmful chemicals. Some manufacturers have agreed to phase out the production of PFOS and PFOA in the United States. Continued research and collaboration between regulatory bodies and industry stakeholders are essential to ensure safer alternatives.
AFFF Lawsuits and Legal Landscape
Numerous lawsuits have emerged as a response to the health risks associated with AFFF exposure. The AFFF foam lawsuit alleges failure to warn, stating that manufacturers of AFFF knew about the dangers of PFAS.
A significant number of these lawsuits are military personnel, firefighters, and individuals living near facilities where AFFF was used. According to ConsumerNotice.org, there are still over 5,000 pending claims under the South Carolina AFFF multidistrict litigation as of July 2023.
According to TorHoerman Law, these lawsuits underscore the need for compensation for affected individuals. To ensure maximum compensation, it is crucial to approach an expert attorney to navigate the complex legal landscape surrounding AFFF lawsuits.
Advancements in Safer Firefighting Technologies
Amid the concerns and legal battles surrounding AFFF, there has been a growing emphasis on developing safer firefighting technologies. Innovations in this field aim to provide effective fire suppression without the use of PFAS-containing foams.
Researchers and manufacturers are actively exploring alternative firefighting solutions that minimize health and environmental risks. These innovations include advanced water-based fire suppressants, foam alternatives with biodegradable components, and technologies such as high-pressure water mist systems.
The push for safer firefighting technologies is driven by the desire to protect the health of firefighters and the environment. As these developments continue, the firefighting industry is moving towards a future where fire suppression methods are environmentally responsible.
The lawsuits surrounding aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) have highlighted its PFAS-related health hazards. These legal battles have brought to light the risks faced by firefighters, military personnel, and communities near AFFF-impacted areas.
While regulations and industry responses are gradually addressing the issue, there’s a growing emphasis on developing safer firefighting technologies.
These techniques are expected to eliminate PFAS and reduce environmental impact. Adopting eco-friendly fire suppression indicates a dedication toward safeguarding worker health in addition to spreading awareness about protecting the environment.