Did you know that as of July 2023, there are over 5,000 pending AFFF lawsuits? If that number makes you pause, you’re not alone. What exactly is AFFF, and why has it become the focal point of numerous legal battles? In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of AFFF lawsuits and the risks associated with this seemingly innocuous foam.
Table of Contents
What is AFFF?
Aqueous Film Forming Foam, commonly known as AFFF, is a fire-suppressing foam primarily used to control difficult-to-fight fires, particularly those involving liquid fuel. Firefighters have been using this foam since the 1970s. It works by forming a film over the fire, effectively smothering it and preventing it from reigniting. While it may sound like a lifesaver—and in many ways, it is—there’s a darker side to AFFF that has led to thousands of lawsuits.
The Legal Landscape
The legal battles surrounding AFFF are complex and far-reaching. One of the most significant legal proceedings is the multidistrict litigation currently underway in South Carolina. This litigation consolidates the claims of individuals from multiple states, as well as water supply companies seeking compensation for filtering out the harmful chemicals found in AFFF.
In June 2023, 3M, one of the major manufacturers of AFFF, reached a tentative $10 billion deal with multiple U.S. cities over contamination claims. However, the settlement has yet to be finalized. Other companies, like Kidde-Fenwal, are facing bankruptcy due to the sheer volume of AFFF lawsuits.
Why Are AFFF Lawsuits Being Filed?
The crux of the issue lies in the serious health risks associated with AFFF. The foam contains toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS for short. These chemicals have earned the nickname “forever chemicals” because they don’t readily break down, lingering in the environment and the human body for extended periods.
Research has shown that the buildup of these chemicals can lead to severe illnesses, including various types of cancer. Lawsuits allege that manufacturers and overseeing bodies knew—or should have known—about these risks but failed to properly warn the public.
Who is Eligible to File an AFFF Lawsuit?
If you’re wondering whether you or someone you know could be a plaintiff in an AFFF lawsuit, the criteria are more expansive than you might think. Those at the greatest risk include:
– Firefighters (both civilian and military)
– Military personnel
– Airport workers
– Oil rig workers
– Chemical plant workers
However, the risk isn’t confined to these occupations. People living near military bases, airports, or other facilities that use AFFF may also be exposed to these harmful chemicals through contaminated air, soil, and groundwater.
Conditions Named in AFFF Lawsuits
The health conditions cited in AFFF lawsuits are both alarming and varied. They include:
– Bladder cancer
– Cholesterol changes
– Immune system damage
– Kidney cancer
– Liver damage
– Pancreatic cancer
– Preeclampsia in pregnant women
– Testicular cancer
– Thyroid disease
– Ulcerative colitis
If you or a loved one has developed any of these conditions and have had exposure to AFFF, legal recourse may be an option worth exploring.
What Manufacturers Are Involved?
When it comes to AFFF lawsuits, several manufacturers find themselves at the center of legal scrutiny. 3M is perhaps the most well-known, but they are far from the only company facing litigation. Other notable manufacturers include:
– Johnson Controls
These companies are accused of knowing the health risks associated with PFAS chemicals in AFFF but failing to adequately warn users and the public. Some lawsuits even allege that these companies performed internal research showing the health risks but chose not to disclose this information.
How to Take Action
If you believe you’ve been adversely affected by exposure to AFFF, taking legal action may be a necessary step. Here’s a guide on how to proceed:
1. Consult a Medical Professional: The first step is to get a medical diagnosis to confirm your condition.
2. Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant documentation, such as medical records and proof of exposure to AFFF.
3. Seek Legal Advice: Consult a lawyer experienced in personal injury or class-action lawsuits. They can assess your case and guide you through the legal process.
4. File a Lawsuit or Join an MDL: Depending on your situation, you may either file an individual lawsuit or join a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
AFFF lawsuits are a complex and evolving area of law, driven by the serious health risks associated with these “forever chemicals.” If you or a loved one has been affected, now is the time to seek legal advice and consider your options.
Understanding the intricacies of AFFF lawsuits and the associated risks is not just crucial for those directly affected but also for society at large. As these legal battles unfold, they will undoubtedly set precedents that could influence regulations and public health initiatives for years to come.