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Lawsuit Alleges Man’s Colon Cancer Caused By Firefighting Foam

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A lawsuit filed on September 15 claims a New Orleans former firefighter developed colon cancer as a result of his regular exposure to firefighting foam.

The man “regularly used” aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) in training and for extinguishing fires while he worked as a firefighter, and was diagnosed with colon cancer as a result of this exposure, according to the complaint.

AFFF contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a PFAS in AFFF, has been linked to cancer. The complaint claims that AFFF has been linked to testicular cancer, kidney cancer, testicular tumors, liver cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, thyroid disease, infertility and bladder cancer.

The complaint lists numerous AFFF manufacturers as defendants, including 3M and DuPont. The complaint states that “by at least the end of the 1960s” animal toxicity testing that defendants performed indicated that exposure to PFOA resulted in numerous adverse health effects in various lab animals, including toxic effects to the testes, adrenals, liver and other organs and bodily systems.

The complaint states that research and testing performed by defendants by at least the end of the 1970’s demonstrated that PFOA could persist in the human body for a long time. Research and testing by defendants by at least the end of the 1980’s demonstrated that PFOA caused testicular tumors in rats, leading to DuPont internally classifying PFOA as a confirmed animal carcinogen and possible human carcinogen, according to the complaint.

The complaint argues that since there is still no known mechanism behind how PFOA causes tumors in animals, it must be assumed that PFOA presents a cancer risk to humans. Thus, the complaint argues, the defendants should have warned consumers that their products might pose a cancer risk to humans. The complaint argues the former fighter developed colon cancer because of the defendants’ failure to warn about this risk.

The complaint seeks to recover damages based on numerous causes of action, including negligence, battery, inadequate warning, design defect, strict liability (statutory), strict liability (restatement), fraudulent concealment, breach of express and implied warranties, and wantonness.

The California legislature passed SB 1044 on August 30. The bill would ban the use, sale and manufacture of firefighting foam containing PFAS for use in most applications by January 1, 2022. The bill is currently awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature. Violations under the bill would be subject of a civil penalty up to $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for subsequent violations.

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