AFFF (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam) is currently the focal point of several mini-tort lawsuits. Simply put, it is a firefighting foam used to suppress flammable liquid fires and prevent their reignition.
The potential dangers of the foam pose several environmental and health risks, which have led many communities and individuals to seek legal help. Typically, these lawsuits include personal injury claims and health hazards linked to PFAS exposure. AFFF manufacturers such as 3M are attempting to settle lawsuits filed against them by paying out a huge sum of money.
In July 2023, lawyersandsettlements.com reported that the chemical giant 3M declared it would settle the PFAS/PFOA (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl) lawsuit for $10.3 billion. This marked the resolution of the first bellwether PFAS complaint filed by the city of Stuart, Florida. It signaled the end of the multi-district action consolidated in the District of South Carolina.
In this article, we will shed light on 3M’s settlement of the AFFF lawsuit and the dangers of AFFF exposure to human health. You will also learn how to take legal action if you have been affected by it.
Understanding Firefighting Foam
AFFF has been used by military firefighters and civilians for several years to extinguish fuel-based fires. Its effectiveness lies in its distinctive properties, which enable it to spread throughout the fire surface. It cuts off the oxygen supply and quickly suppresses the flames. AFFF is used in military bases, airports, and oil refineries for this reason.
However, the main concern is with its chemical composition, which includes PFAS. They are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down easily. Hence, they can remain in the human body and the environment for several years after the initial exposure, leading to health issues and environmental hazards.
What Effect Did AFFF Have on Stuart, Florida?
Back in 2018, the city of Stuart filed an AFFF lawsuit against 3M and various other chemical producers, claiming that AFFF had polluted its water supply. The city’s fire department had been using this foam for decades in training drills. At that time, people believed that AFFF was an effective tool for extinguishing fuel-based hot fires that could occur after a Navy aircraft carrier calamity.
The chemicals were reported to seep into the Surficial Aquifer, an underground water source deep below Stuart. Additionally, the city’s municipal water facility draws water from several interconnected wells, which, in turn, source water from the aquifer. A few of these wells were located close to an open space where the Fire and Rescue Department of the city trained firefighters using AFFF foam. The question that needs to be delved into is whether the underground water source is contaminated or not.
There wasn’t any need for the city to test for the presence of PFOA or PFAS in its municipal water supply until 2012. The city’s government was slow to realize the water contamination. In 2016, the city noticed the presence of these chemicals at high levels and ensured that the wells were not in service.
The testing highlighted that a few of the city wells exhibited PFAS levels of more than 1,000 ppt (parts per trillion), exceeding the limit of 70 ppt set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
To date, it’s not clear how long the city residents have been exposed to the polluted drinking water as their health has suffered greatly as a result. Hence, Stuart needs to spend a significant amount to develop a water treatment facility that can remove PFOA and PFAS from the water. Compared to the extent of corrective measures that need to be implemented by Stuart, the settlement amount isn’t sufficient.
Potential Health Hazards of AFFF Exposure
Over the years, AFFF exposure has been found to affect human health adversely. In August 2023, allaboutlawsuits.com reported the case of Richelle Boyle, who developed kidney cancer after being exposed to this foam.
Other health hazards include:
Developmental problems in infants and children
PFAS might hinder the body’s natural growth and development processes in infants and children, potentially leading to learning difficulties, decreased fertility, and changes in behavior.
PFAS exposure can interfere with the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which is responsible for regulating metabolism. Thyroid disruption can result in symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and weight gain.
Immune system disorders
Studies have highlighted that PFAS can impair immune function, thereby making people more susceptible to diseases and infections. Another concern with PFAS is its potential to reduce the effectiveness of specific vaccines.
PFAS exposure has been associated with testicular, kidney, and prostate cancer. According to a medical study conducted in 2022, PFAS was found to increase the risk of mitosis in patients with melanoma.
Apart from these, other ailments linked with AFFF exposure include high blood pressure, fluctuations in cholesterol levels, and liver damage. It can also affect the functioning of hormones in the body.
Taking Legal Recourse to Cover Damages Caused by AFFF
Today, more than 2,500 AFFF lawsuits have been consolidated in the MDL. In a jury trial in Ohio, DuPont was ordered to pay out $50 million to cover the damages of a victim suffering from testicular cancer. Hence, if you or anyone you know has been severely affected by AFFF exposure, you can file a lawsuit and seek the compensation you deserve.
However, you alone can’t take on this fight. It is necessary to get in touch with a lawyer who has relevant experience handling AFFF lawsuits. But before contacting the lawyer, it is essential to collect all the evidence. The lawyer will utilize this evidence to create a compelling argument and present it in court to secure a verdict in your favor.
TruLaw insists on the importance of not missing any essential evidence. It can include medical records, employment records, cancer diagnosis information, details about other health concerns, and a history of exposure to AFFF.
It can also include any other personal witnesses who can add to your legal case. The settlement amount can vary between $10,000 and $300,000 and more. However, the final amount depends on the AFFF exposure level, the severity of medical issues, and the strength of the case.
People often mistakenly believe that only firefighters and military personnel are affected by AFFF foam exposure. In truth, this poisonous foam can also harm anyone living in an area where the water supply has been polluted by PFAS, as seen in the case of the City of Stuart. Therefore, it’s essential to monitor and address health issues resulting from AFFF exposure and seek necessary medical treatment.
Today, 3M and other AFFF manufacturers are shelling out an enormous sum of money to settle the lawsuits filed against them. This doesn’t just help to cover the damages people have suffered but also raises awareness about the dangers of AFFF exposure.
Hence, victims affected by this hazardous foam should seek immediate medical aid, gather evidence, and connect with a lawyer to file a legal complaint, asking for the compensation they deserve.