Update: $17.5 Million Settlement Reached in Wisconsin Firefighting Foam Contamination Suit
Johnson Controls entity Tyco Fire Products LP has agreed to pay $17.5 million to resolve claims from hundreds of homeowners in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, that their water was contaminated by AFFF firefighting foam. The award includes $15 million for property-damage claims and $2.5 million for plaintiffs alleging injuries including kidney cancer and testicular cancer.
The landmark case is just 1 of dozens moving forward as part of multidistrict litigation (MDL) in South Carolina federal court alleging harm from AFFF firefighting foam. The lawsuit is: In Re Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation MDL 2873, Case Number 2:18-mn-02873.
What is AFFF?
Firefighters, including those stationed at military bases and airports, use a particular type of chemical-based foam to extinguish fires more effectively.
Known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), many of these products are made with the toxic chemicals, PFOS and PFAS. PFOS and PFAS have been linked to various health conditions, including an elevated risk of cancer and stunted growth in children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Environmental Working Group (EWG) have reported that aqueous film-forming foam may be associated with cancer. Many municipal fire departments have ceased using firefighting foam containing PFAS, but military bases throughout the country continue to use the AFFF firefighting foam.
Moreover, PFOS and PFAS in firefighting foam does not only affect those who handle it- these chemicals have been known to enter local groundwater and contaminate drinking water supplies that are accessible to those who live nearby.
How Does AFFF Firefighter Foam Work?
Water is heavier than most fuels, making it inefficient at stopping certain kinds of fires. When water is sprayed on a fuel fire, it can fall underneath the flames, start to boil, and spread the fire around instead of putting it out.
AFFF (firefighting foam), however, is lighter and acts as a blanket atop the fuel, cutting the fire off from the oxygen it needs to continue to burn, which smothers the fire.
What's the Problem?
U.S. military personnel have been using firefighting foam for almost 60 years and firefighters at airports were required by the Federal Aviation Administration to use the foam until 2018. The Department of Defense identified over 400 military sites that are potentially exposed to firefighting foams.
In 2018, a federal inquiry determined that PFAS are more dangerous than previously reported and prompted revised recommendations for safe levels of exposure to the compounds. Lawsuits have been filed against AFFF manufacturers for failing to warn users that exposure to the chemicals contained in firefighting foam could lead to various cancers.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced that New Jersey filed a lawsuit against companies for knowingly producing and selling products containing toxic firefighting foam in New Jersey for decades.
According to the lawsuit, which asserts both environmental and consumer fraud claims, corporations manufactured and sold AFFF products that contain PFOA and PFOS chemicals to firefighters even though they were aware of the health and environmental risks posed by these chemicals when they are released into the environment.
AFFF Health Hazards
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumors
- Prostate cancer
- And more
Which Occupations are at Risk of Toxic Chemicals?
Airport and military firefighters are at a particularly high risk for AFFF health hazards. Until 2018, the Federal Airport Administration (FAA) required airports to use PFAS-containing foam per U.S. Navy guidelines. The Navy and other branches of the military have used AFFF firefighting foam since the 1960s, even during training exercises and non-critical missions.
Who Else May Be At Risk of AFFF Exposure?
Individuals who are not employed in any of these high-risk occupations may also be exposed to AFFF firefighting foam. Residents living in areas near firefighter foam use or disposal are also at risk of experiencing AFFF-related health effects. AFFF exposure may also result from groundwater contamination or the contamination of municipal water supplies in areas that have been affected by firefighting foam.
Is Aqueous Film Forming Foam Still Used?
Unfortunately, toxic PFAS-based firefighting foam is still being used at a variety of airports across the country, both for military and commercial use.
However, the Department of Defense is researching safe PFAS-free foam alternatives and has limited the use of AFFF to emergency responses.
How is AFFF Firefighting Foam Contaminating the Water?
Because PFAS can permeate ground water and soil, they have contaminated drinking water in cities across the United States.
AFFF gets into the environment once the firefighting foam is discharged and released during use and due to spills and leaks which occur in AFFF storage locations.
AFFF can contaminate the soil, surface water, and groundwater, and the residual materials can enter drain systems and discharge to remote locations.
Are Lawsuits Being Filed?
Yes. A growing number of firefighters have filed lawsuits claiming that toxic chemicals in AFFF firefighting foam have caused them to develop cancer, according to 2021 court filings.
In addition to individual AFFF lawsuits filed by current and former firefighters, a Texas man filed a class action over toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as well as contamination from facilities that use AFFF in January 2021.
As of January 2021, there were more than 950 pending claims in multidistrict litigation in South Carolina federal court under MDL-2873 IN RE: Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation. This number is up from 820 claims reported in DuPont’s annual report ending Dec. 31, 2020.
Injuries claimed in the lawsuits include breast cancer, ulcerative colitis, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cysts, tumors and other illnesses.
Lawsuits say defendant companies — including 3M, DuPont and Chemours — knew per and polyfluoroalkyl substances in its firefighting foam contained dangerous chemicals that could cause buildup in the body and result in adverse health effects.
In addition to individual injury lawsuits, several states have sued 3M and other AFFF manufacturers for PFAS contamination and cost of AFFF clean up.
Related: DuPont AFFF Lawsuit
Have There Been Any Settlements?
The current litigation isn’t the first time AFFF companies have faced lawsuits related to dangerous chemicals in PFAS.
In 2017, DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay $670.7 million to settle 3,550 injury lawsuits stemming from PFOA environmental pollution from the Washington Works Plant in West Virginia. The companies denied wrongdoing.
Since then, the companies have faced dozens more cases.
In March 2020, an Ohio jury said DuPont had to pay $50 million to Travis Abbot, a man who said PFOA-contaminated drinking water led him to develop testicular cancer, according to Bloomberg.
Related: Firefighter Foam Settlements
What Compensation Could I Be Awarded?
Our legal team strives to maximize compensation for AFFF exposure. Claimants may be eligible for money damages to compensate for past and ongoing medical expenses, lost income, loss of future earnings, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. The specific facts of your case will determine the value of your AFFF cancer lawsuit.
Multi-billion dollar manufacturers like DuPont and 3M have sold AFFF for decades, despite evidence that the product’s chemicals posed grave long-term risks to human health. When companies place profits over consumer safety, and fail to warn the public of known risks, they should be held accountable for their actions.
To be held liable for AFFF exposure, it must be proven that the defendants were negligent in the design, testing, manufacturing, or marketing of their products, and that this negligence resulted in actual injuries and financial losses.
Holding Firefighting Foam Manufacturers Accountable
Filing an AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuit is one way to hold firefighting foam manufacturers accountable for failing to warn consumers about the product’s health risks.
The 3M Company, which manufactures and sells AFFF firefighting foam, is considered a responsible party for contaminated drinking water supplies near military bases at which the firefighting foam was used.
The company is currently facing multiple lawsuits in which the plaintiffs argue that 3M and the other defendants knew that AFFF posed significant risks to human health but continued to market the products anyway and failed to disclose the health risks.
Firefighting foam lawsuits from across the nation filed by people who developed cancer have been consolidated into one multi-district litigation in the District of South Carolina.
Tyco Fire Products, Chemguard, Buckeye Fire Equipment, and National Foam are also being sued for continuing to manufacture the product despite knowing about potential cancer risks related to exposure to AFFF.
Filing an AFFF Lawsuit
If you or a loved one developed cancer after being exposed to firefighting foam, you may be eligible to participate in a free firefighting foam lawsuit investigation.
If you qualify, you may be eligible to obtain compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses you suffered.
If a class action lawsuit is the appropriate legal option, you may also be eligible to seek compensation on behalf of numerous others who have developed cancer as a result of exposure to AFFF firefighting foam.
By taking legal action against the responsible companies by filing a firefighting foam lawsuit, you can help to hold them accountable for their role in this crisis.
Related Article: Aqueous Film Forming Foam Lawsuit Update
See the other related toxic tort lawsuits we've taken on.
Get a Free Firefighting Foam Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The Products Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new AFFF Lawsuits in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one was injured by AFFF exposure, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a firefighting foam lawsuit and we can help.