Lawsuit Claims Firefighting Foam Caused Former Firefighter’s Colon Cancer
A lawsuit filed in federal court in South Carolina on January 1 claims that a former firefighter developed colon cancer due to decades of exposure to firefighting foam.
The lawsuit names multiple defendants, including 3M and DuPont.
The complaint claims that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) can cause cancer, the defendants knew or should have known for decades that they can cause cancer, and that the defendants failed to adequately warn the public about this cancer risk. Two specific PFAS mentioned in the complaint are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
The plaintiff, according to the complaint, was a firefighter for the Town of St. Matthews Fire Department in Calhoun County, South Carolina for over 35 years. The plaintiff used AFFF containing PFAS during firefighting response and training exercises, and he also used equipment and gear containing PFAS, according to the complaint.
The complaint claims that the “descriptive labels and data sheets for the AFFF containing PFAS utilized at the Town of St. Matthews Fire Department” did not warn about the cancer risk associated with PFAS, claiming the defendants sold their AFFF “knowing that the PFAS contained in the AFFF presented an unreasonable risk to human health.”
The complaint notes that it was known “by at least the end of the 1980s” that PFOA had caused testicular cancer in rats, leading to DuPont classifying it as a possible human carcinogen, and that DuPont discovered elevated cancer rates in workers exposed to PFOA. The complaint argues that any confirmed animal carcinogen must be presumed to be a possible human carcinogen if the mechanism of action is not known. The complaint notes that a mechanism of action is not known for how PFOA causes cancer.
The complaint also notes that it was known “by at least the end of the 1960s” that PFOA was toxic to animals and was resistant to environmental degradation, meaning it persists in the environment unchanged, long-term. The complaint also claims that it was known “by at least the end of the 1970s” that PFOA and PFOS could bind to human blood proteins, and persist and accumulate in the human body, and were found in the blood of workers at PFAS manufacturing locations as well as the general population of the United States.
The complaint seeks to recover financial compensation based on multiple counts, including negligence, battery, inadequate warning, design defect, fraudulent concealment, breach of express and implied warranties, wantonness, and punitive damages.