In 2020, Florida firefighter Debbie Rittinghouse filed a lawsuit alleging exposure to toxic chemicals in Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) caused her to develop breast cancer. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on September 15, 2020, named the following companies as having a role in the production and distribution of the toxic chemical: 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., Chemours Company, Arkema, Inc., Du Pont De Nemours Inc., Kidde-Fenwal, Inc., Kidde, National Foam Inc. Tyco Fire Products, and BASF.
In the suit, Rittinghouse describes working for Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue from 1994 to 2018. In December 2016, she was diagnosed with a grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma and metastasized lymph node, which she attributes to long-term exposure to the chemicals found in anti-fire foams.
Firefighters Across the Country File Lawsuits Against Anti-Fire Foam Manufacturers
At the time, similar cases were also pursued against anti-fire foam manufacturers. Firefighters across the country reported being diagnosed with testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other injuries as a result of AFFFs chemical exposure.
Most recently, nineteen current and retired firefighters in the states of Massachusetts and New York have filed two different lawsuits stating that “forever chemicals” in their work materials and equipment have led to cancer diagnosis, after blood tests revealed the presence of poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in December.
As reported to The Hill, Elizabeth Pritzker, whose firm is handling the lawsuit in Massachusetts, said that the lawsuit may eventually be folded into the multidistrict litigation making similar claims in South Carolina. There were more than 950 pending claims in multidistrict litigation in South Carolina federal court alone as of January 19th, 2021, as reported in Drug Watch. According to Bloomberg Law, most of the cases focus on the effects of firefighting foam while a minimal number focus on firefighters’ protective gear.
Exposure To “Forever Chemicals”
According to the Environmental Working Group, firefighters have been exposed to “forever chemicals” or PFAs since they were first created and patented by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down and can accumulate over time in the body and the environment. Awareness of the potential dangers of the use of these chemicals goes back as early as 1970 when an internal memo from the manufacturer DuPont indicated that PFAS were “highly toxic when inhaled.” In 2015, a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found “evidence that firefighters are at increased risk of certain types of cancer as a result of occupational exposure.”
The Dangers of Anti-Fire Foam
The United States Fire Administration lists two compounds as part of firefighting aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) solutions. They are the PFAS compounds perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Exposure to these chemical compounds over time may cause them to accumulate and build up in the body. Long-term exposure may result in adverse health effects such as thyroid disease and testicular, kidney, and bladder cancers.
Call An Experienced Defective Product Attorney
Firefighters put their lives at risk every day to protect our families. The least they can expect is that the materials and protective gear they use are safe, and are not exposing their health to additional risk. If you or a loved one have been injured due to a defective product like the chemicals found in AFFFs, call an experienced defective product attorney immediately. Our team of expert attorneys can help you understand your options and navigate the legal process. Call us today at (305) 662-6178 or visit panterlaw.com for a free consultation with a dedicated attorney.