AFFF Firefighting Foam
While effective at extinguishing fires and saving human lives, aqueous film-forming foam is highly toxic and linked to different types of cancer and serious health conditions. If you used or were exposed to AFFF while serving in the armed forces, Veterans Guide can help you pursue benefits and compensation related to AFFF exposure and any service-connected disability.
In the United States and abroad, the military has used aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, in firefighting and emergency response services because it’s highly effective at extinguishing fires involving hazardous, flammable liquids. However, the solution contains toxic chemicals that pose serious health risks to humans.
If you’ve suffered harm from service-connected AFFF exposure, you may be eligible to pursue VA disability benefits. In addition, you may be able to pursue an AFFF foam lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors responsible for your illness. Veterans Guide can connect you with knowledgeable and experienced advocates to get the full compensation you deserve.
What Is AFFF?
If you served in the military, you’ve likely used or heard of firefighting foam. Commonly known as AFFF, aqueous film-forming foam is widely used because it can quickly put out burning jet fuel and other fast-burning chemical fires.
The U.S. military has used AFFF for over 50 years to handle fires and spills involving flammable liquids for which water is ineffective. This synthetic foam has a low viscosity, creating a dense blanket over the flammable liquid and preventing reignition.
One alternative to AFFF is film-forming fluoroprotein foam, or FFFP, a protein-based biodegradable material. However, that isn’t as fast and effective at putting out fires as AFFF.
Since its invention in the early 1960s, many corporations have manufactured, distributed, marketed, and sold AFFF. The main U.S. companies involved are the following:
3M Company, National Foam, DuPont, Ansul, and others have provided AFFF to the U.S. military.
Why Is AFFF Harmful?
AFFF contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These are a group of man-made chemicals used to manufacture various substances since the 1940s. Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” PFAS have extremely long half-lives and can accumulate in the human body over time.
PFAS can lead to adverse health effects, including heart disease, birth defects, and hormonal imbalances. Additionally, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated one form of PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid, as carcinogenic.
When not disposed of or stored properly, PFAS can also leak into soil, surface water, and groundwater, creating serious health risks for people in affected areas. Government agencies have begun to phase out AFFF and destroy PFAS.
AFFF and Veterans
The U.S. military is the largest global user of AFFF. Military firefighters are the servicemembers primarily exposed to AFFF, but anyone in an area where the firefighting foam is used or stored could also be exposed.
The U.S. Department of Defense has required all military branches to store and use AFFF for years. All military firefighters in the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force have potentially been exposed to high levels of AFFF and are at risk of developing cancer and other health conditions from PFAS.
If you are a veteran exposed to PFAS, seek medical assistance right away, whether or not you feel sick. A qualified physician can fully assess your situation based on your exposure and provide the guidance you need.
Which Military Sites Were Contaminated With AFFF?
Many military bases at home and abroad have been contaminated with PFAS. The Environmental Working Group has identified roughly 710 military sites in the U.S. alone with known or suspected PFAS discharge and exposure.
Some of the major military bases where AFFF was used include the following:
Because of its effectiveness in fighting jet fuel and petroleum fires, AFFF has been used by all service branches in fire suppression and training exercises on military bases and Navy aircraft carriers.
Can You Get VA Disability for AFFF Exposure?
Any veteran with a service-related disability can qualify for VA disability benefits. Thus, if you can establish a link between toxic exposure to AFFF during your military service and a disabling health condition, you may be eligible for benefits. You may be eligible even if you did not work as a military firefighter.
Servicemembers and veterans faced challenges in the past with VA disability claims for AFFF exposure due to the VA’s reluctance to admit a link between the chemical and various diseases. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize any conditions as presumptively caused by PFAS exposure. However, you may still file a VA disability claim for a condition you believe is connected to your exposure while in service.
When you file a VA disability claim, the VA will assign a disability rating based on the severity of your condition. Ratings range from 0 to 100 percent, increasing in increments of 10 percent. Any rating of 10 percent or above qualifies the veteran for monthly compensation.
To get VA disability for AFFF exposure, you must establish a service connection by following these steps:
- Get a current medical diagnosis. You’ll need a recent diagnosis of a VA-ratable condition, such as cancer or Psoriasis.
- Establish an in-service injury or event. You must establish the date or dates you were exposed to AFFF. However, given the prevalence of the substance, this could simply be your in-service dates.
- Establish a medical nexus using competent medical evidence. You will need a physician’s statement linking your medical diagnosis to your in-service exposure.
If the VA denies your disability claim is denied, you can file an appeal. You can also pursue compensation through an AFFF lawsuit.
Health Conditions Associated With Firefighting Foam
Occupational exposure is a common way people come into contact with the dangerous chemicals in AFFF. Workers regularly exposed to firefighting foam have a higher risk of developing certain health conditions than those exposed to it less often.
Research suggests that exposure to high levels of PFAS, such as those found in AFFF, may lead to serious and life-threatening health issues. According to the VA, exposure to PFAS is associated with the following health conditions:
Research on the health consequences of PFAS and AFFF exposure continues to develop. But so far, cancers associated with AFFF exposure include:
Further testing is ongoing to determine if there are potential links between PFAS and ovarian, endometrial, prostate, and thyroid cancers.
Thousands of AFFF lawsuits have been filed nationwide. The lawsuits filed in federal courts have been consolidated into a multi-district litigation, or MDL, in South Carolina. When cases are transferred to an MDL, case discovery is shared, but the cases remain separate. A few representative cases typically go to trial as a test to determine the likely outcome for the others. This can fuel settlement negotiations.
The AFFF lawsuits are awaiting trial, and new cases are still being filed. Pursuing legal action can help you recover financial compensation for various economic and non-economic damages, such as:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
An experienced AFFF lawsuit attorney can guide your case and help you get maximum compensation for your harm.
Who Is Liable in the AFFF Lawsuit?
The primary defendants in this action are the largest AFFF manufacturers, such as 3M and DuPont. The lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers continued to make and distribute AFFF after learning of the risks their products posed.
Evidence suggests that these companies became aware of their products’ environmental and health risks many years before the health risks of PFAS became public knowledge.
According to a report by The Intercept, 3M decided to stop making a patented firefighting foam product in 2000 after a study conducted with DuPont revealed the dangers of small doses of PFOS present in the product. However, 3M continued to make AFFF products containing other PFAS, denying that those chemicals posed any harm to human health or the environment.
Filing an AFFF Lawsuit
To be eligible to participate in the AFFF lawsuit, you must meet the following criteria:
To prove your case, you must collect medical records, testimony from medical professionals, information about the AFFF product to which you were exposed, and documentation of your exposure history.
By participating in the ongoing firefighting foam lawsuit, you have the potential to hold the makers and distributors of these chemicals responsible and get the compensation you deserve. You will need to build a strong case to secure maximum recovery. An experienced PFAS toxic exposure attorney can explain your options and fight for your interests.
What Determines AFFF Lawsuit Settlement Amounts?
In 2017, Dupont and Chemours settled roughly 3,550 injury lawsuits related to chemical pollution at a West Virginia lant for $670.7 million. In 2021, Tyco Fire Products, ChemDesign, and Chemguard settled a case in Wisconsin for $17.5 million.
If you file an AFFF lawsuit, it’s likely to be consolidated into the MDL. The settlement you receive will vary based on the nature and severity of your illness, the extent of your damages, the quality of your evidence, and the skills and experience of your legal representation.
Damages in an MDl are individualized. You can pursue compensation for your economic and non-economic losses, including medical bills, the anticipated costs of future medical care, expenses of home modifications, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more.
Is There a Time Limit To File a Claim?
The AFFF MDL is ongoing, and new cases are filed daily. But every state has a time limit for filing a personal injury case, referred to as the statute of limitations. These laws set deadlines for taking legal action after discovering you suffered an injury or illness caused by another party. The statute of limitations varies by state, but the time limit is usually around two to four years.
Because every state has its own laws and procedures, it’s important to work with a knowledgeable attorney who will protect your rights and pursue the maximum recovery.
Getting Help Filing an AFFF Lawsuit
If you believe you were exposed to AFFF while serving in the military, speak with your physician as soon as possible. The VA offers a toxic chemical risk assessment and is developing a registry for members exposed to PFAS.
You may have access to VA disability benefits due to AFFF exposure, and you have the right to pursue damages from the makers of the products that caused you harm. An experienced attorney can guide you through the legal and VA claims process.
To learn more about your rights regarding AFFF exposure, contact us today.