Lawsuit Alleges Firefighting Foam, Equipment Caused Firefighters’ Cancers
A lawsuit filed in October claims that multiple firefighters developed cancer because they were exposed to PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam and equipment.
PFAS In Firefighter Turnouts
Many lawsuits have been filed regarding firefighting foam and cancer, but this is one of the first lawsuits to claim that PFAS chemicals in firefighters’ turnout gear caused firefighters to develop cancer.
“PFAS chemicals are used in turnout gear to impart heat, water, and stain resistance to the outer shell of turnout gear. Due to exposure to heat, these chemicals off-gas, break down, and degrade. During the process, firefighters are exposed to PFAS chemicals contained in turnout gear, including through skin contact/absorption or ingestion (e.g., hand-to-mouth contact),” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit notes that a June 2020 University of Notre Dame study found high levels of PFAS in firefighters’ turnout gear, including gear used, worn or handled by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The Dangers Of PFAS
PFAS have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. The lawsuit notes that PFAS “are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they are immune to degradation,” noting that the chemicals accumulate in humans and that scientists can’t estimate an environmental half-life for PFAS.
The lawsuit notes there is no safe, acceptable level of PFAS in the human body. The lawsuit states that, in addition to cancer, PFAS exposure has been associated with liver damage, thyroid disease, endocrine and immune system disorders, ulcerative colitis, decreased fertility, birth defects, pregnancy-induced hypertension, accelerated changes in gene expression, and increases in oxidative stress which can contribute to tumor promotion, DNA changes and other health conditions.
Lawsuit Claims Defendants Knew Of Cancer Risk, Made/Sold Products Anyways
The lawsuit claims the defendants knew that their firefighter foam and turnout equipment presented a cancer risk due to PFAS and made and/or sold the products anyways without warning the public about the cancer risk. The lawsuit describes this behavior as acting “with willful or conscious disregard for the rights, health, and safety of” the firefighter plaintiffs.
The lawsuit notes that a 3M technical handbook, in 1963, classified PFAS as toxic. It also notes that studies, by the end of the 1980s, had found that PFAS caused testicular tumors in rats, causing DuPont to classify PFAS internally as a possible human carcinogen.
The lawsuit claims that, by the 2000’s, the defendants’ “own research of its employees revealed multiple adverse health effects among workers who had been exposed to PFAS, including increased cancer incidence.”