Imagine a firefighter walking into a rescue scene equipped with firefighting foam and other devices to extinguish the fire. The first image that comes to mind is of a courageous person saving others. However, this bravery often comes at a cost to firefighters, and it’s not because of the fire they have to combat but rather the firefighting foam they use.
Every year, nearly 43,720 people nationwide suffer from thyroid cancer. Common causes include radiation exposure, a diet low in iodine, and genetic factors. However, firefighters are known to be at risk of thyroid gland issues, including cancer, due to exposure to AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) at firefighting scenes.
AFFF comprises 98% of PFAS, which is a group of toxic substances. Exposure to these substances results in a 56% higher risk of thyroid cancer in firefighters, along with other severe health hazards. Recently, firefighters in Georgia have been diagnosed with prostate and thyroid cancer due to this hazardous chemical that they use during their job.
In this article, we will delve deeply into what makes AFFF dangerous and how it has led to cancer among firefighters in Georgia. We will also explain how victims can take the necessary legal action and seek the compensation they deserve.
What is AFFF, and Why Is It Dangerous?
Simply put, AFFF is a water-based synthetic surfactant. Designed specifically for Class B fires, this foam is effective in suppressing fires involving flammable liquids like petroleum and gasoline. The foam can smother the fire and prevent it from absorbing the oxygen required to keep burning.
TorHoerman Law states that AFFF was used for suppressing hazardous fires in chemical manufacturing plants, military bases, and various industrial facilities. The US Navy and 3M were the first to develop the foam in the 1960s. Nonetheless, this foam also contains PFAS chemicals, commonly known as “forever chemicals,” which endure in the environment and human body without breaking down.
Consequently, in humans, it can cause different forms of cancer and other health problems. Since firefighters regularly use this foam as part of their job, they are at a higher risk of developing liver, bladder, thyroid, and prostate cancer, among other health concerns. And this is exactly what happened to the firefighters in Georgia.
How Did AFFF Affect Firefighters in Georgia?
In May 2021, 11alive.com shared the tragic story of Mark Johnson and Crag Cait, who developed cancer due to AFFF exposure during their job. When Mark decided to be a firefighter in Atlanta, he was aware of the risks. However, Craig, his fellow firefighter, wasn’t aware of the hazards that were to follow.
Craig shared that he never expected that AFFF could cause cancer or any health hazard until he learned that he had stage 4 thyroid cancer in January 2021. He had to undergo surgery, which has given him a high-pitched voice.
When it comes to Mark, he suffered from prostate cancer and is recovering from it. Both these firefighters were exposed to AFFF for close to two decades, which resulted in cancer they are both suffering and recovering from. Mark further shared that they used to have a training burn annually, which further added to the harm in the body since it would last a week.
All through the week, the firefighters got exposed to ample amounts of this toxic foam without any protective gear or masks. Both firefighters believe this could also be a reason for their cancer diagnoses.
Taking Legal Action
While the harm that has occurred to firefighters over the years due to AFFF exposure can’t be undone, it is necessary to take action for what has already happened. Therefore, if you or anyone you know has suffered from cancer or any other dangerous health hazard due to AFFF exposure, you can file an AFFF foam cancer lawsuit.
To do so, you need to get in touch with an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the process. Typically, you will have to share every piece of evidence you have, from employment records to medical documents, with your lawyer so that they can prepare a strong case and present it in court on your behalf.
The lawyer can help you seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, permanent disability, and pain and suffering.
Today, ample research is being conducted on PFAS and its link to cancer, as well as its side effects on the reproductive and immune systems, organ damage, and more. This research may offer a ray of hope for firefighters and other military professionals who are periodically exposed to AFFF.
Once there is more evidence linking AFFF to cancer, firefighters may have the opportunity to use safer alternatives that do not pose a cancer risk. However, until then, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks, exercise caution, and seek both medical and legal assistance if you have been affected by AFFF foam.