What Is Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF)?

AFFF contains fluorochemical surfactants developed to fight flammable liquid fires. It has been widely used by both military and civilian firefighters. AFFF is often used on airfields. (1) (2) (3)

Firefighter foaming the ground

AFFF Contains Manmade Chemicals

AFFF includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). These two chemicals are in a group of manmade chemical compounds known as perfluorinated compounds. (4)

PFOA and PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). They have been used since the 1950s and are found in numerous consumer products. Widespread use has meant PFOA and PFOS are now in the air and soil. Alarmingly, these chemicals are also in drinking water. (5) (6) (7)

Civilian use of AFFF has mostly been at firefighting training locations or facilities, accident or emergency response sites, and aircraft hangers. (8)

You may have many questions about AFFF foam lawsuits. Here are answers:

Is AFFF foam banned? Partially. It is banned in a handful of situations and many states. The National Defense Authorization Act For 2020 bans the use of AFFF foam by the military. (9) New York is among the many states that banned or restricted the use of these chemicals. (10)

Is AFFF foam harmful? High levels of AFFF exposure are linked to a number of serious health conditions, including some cancers. (11)

Is AFFF being discontinued? As many as 24 states and the military have banned or restricted AFFF use. (12)

Is aqueous film-forming foam hazardous? AFFF contains PFAS, which are toxic chemicals. (13)

What is the difference between foam and AFFF? Fluorine-free foam is not harmful to the environment. AFFF is harmful. (14)

Does all AFFF foam contain PFAS? Firefighting foams are class B surfactant solutions, categorized as either fluorinated or fluorine-free. Fluorinated foams contain PFAS. (15)

Firefighters, Individuals, and Water Providers Impacted Around the Country

Firefighters and other individuals need to deal with serious medical issues. Water providers near contaminated sites face expensive removal and cleanup costs. An AFFF foam lawsuit can help recoup these costs. 

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), more than 3,186 locations across the U.S. are contaminated with PFOA and PFOS. (16)

EWG’s interactive map identifies water providers impacted by these chemicals. Much of this contamination can be attributed to the use of AFFF.

Scientist examining toxic water samples

Human Exposure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates people are “most likely exposed to PFOA by drinking contaminated water sources, and possibly by using products that contain PFOA.” (17)

The EPA explains “potential exposure pathways include ingestion. …or inhalation of PFAS-containing particulate matter.” The EPA adds that human exposure can come from water supplies associated with manufacturing locations, industrial “use or disposal” sites, and even airports. (18)

PFOS and PFOA have been found at and in: (19)

  • Airplane crash sites.
  • Aircraft hangar fire suppression systems.
  • Firefighting training activities.
  • Leaks from tanks or supply lines.
  • Sediment and water downstream of production facilities.
  • Sewage sludge and landfill leachate.
  • Wastewater treatment plant effluent. 

Serious health injuries linked to AFFF include: (20) (21) (22)

  • Kidney cancer.
  • Testicular cancer.
  • Ulcerative colitis. 
  • Liver cancer.
  • Thyroid cancer.

Other AFFF health issues are: (23) (24)

  • Thyroid disorders.
  • Immune system changes.
  • Increased liver enzymes.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Decreased vaccination response. 

Call for a free consultation about your water contamination legal options.

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AFFF Foam and Cancer

“PFAS chemicals attached themselves to proteins in human blood.“ This allows them to persist in the body, reports the investigative news organization, Public Health Watch. (25)

“Certain PFAS can accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time. Long-term exposure to PFAS/PFOA/PFOS, in high concentrations, causes a buildup in the body,” according to the U.S. Fire Administration. (26)

Here are the answers to questions you may have about the AFFF foam and cancer lawsuit:

Is AFFF foam linked to cancer? Scientific evidence indicates an association between AFFF foam and cancer. (27)

What cancers are caused by AFFF foam? Increased risks of testicular and kidney cancers are associated with long-term PFAS exposure. (28)

What states have banned AFFF foam? Almost half of the U.S. states have bans or restrictions on the use of AFFF foam. (29) (30) 

Can you get VA disability for exposure to AFFF? You can file a claim for disability benefits related to AFFF exposure during military service. (31)

Health Risks to Pregnant Women and Infants

Some population groups are more sensitive to this chemical exposure. These include infants and women of childbearing age. These women may experience pregnancy-induced: (32) (33) (34)

  • Hypertension.
  • Preeclampsia. 

In fetuses and infants there may be developmental issues such as: (35)

  • Accelerated puberty.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Skeletal variations.

PFOS and PFOA Health Advisory and Standards

After determining to regulate PFOS and PFOA contaminants in 2021, EPA issued four drinking water health advisories in 2022. (36) (37)

In March 2023, EPA proposed to set drinking water standards at 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS, as “individual contaminants.” (38)

This maximum contaminant level (MCL) would be “enforceable,” requiring public water systems to monitor and notify the public, as well as reduce PFAS levels in their systems should levels exceed the MCL. (39)

“On April 10, 2024, EPA announced the final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS.” The proposed MCL was confirmed for PFOA and PFOS. Limits of 10 ppt were set for PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA and 1 (unitless) for any “mixture containing two or more of” them or PFBS. (40)

Clear water running out of faucet

AFFF Lawsuits and Multidistrict Litigation

Anyone who has been harmed by exposure to AFFF through their groundwater or drinking water is encouraged to explore their legal options. Weitz & Luxenberg brought one of the first class action lawsuits on behalf of communities that were exposed to AFFF chemicals in their drinking water.

Cases from around the country have been brought by communities against AFFF manufacturers. These AFFF lawsuits on behalf of municipalities and other water providers have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. In 2023, settlements were announced with two of the defendants in the MDL — 3M and DuPont — that will pay billions of dollars to impacted water providers. Claims are still pending against other several companies.

Is the AFFF lawsuit real? Yes. Water providers and municipalities can join the MDL. Individuals, including firefighters, can file their own personal injury cases.

Who qualifies for the AFFF lawsuit? Anyone who can show illness, due to exposure to AFFF over extended periods of time, may qualify. You need to have been diagnosed with specific injuries — such as ulcerative colitis, or kidney, testicular, liver, or thyroid cancer — to be eligible for our AFFF lawsuits.

Bring AFFF Manufacturers to Justice

People are being exposed to hazardous chemicals. Many of you are suffering from illness because these chemicals have gotten into your bodies. 

“The people of this country who live near military bases are being exposed to hazardous chemicals,” says Nancy Christensen, one of our W&L attorneys from our Environmental, Toxic Torts, and Consumer Protection Practice Group. “You are suffering from health issues due to these chemicals that get into your water supplies.”

Ms. Christensen insists, “Companies who create products that harm you need to be held responsible for what they did.”

Have you been exposed to certain chemicals found in AFFFs? Contact us now for a free evaluation.

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The Litigation Process

W&L attorneys listen to your story and examine any documentation — employment and insurance records, a medical diagnosis, and bills — you can provide. We investigate and advise you of your legal options. We support our clients through all settlement negotiations, and courtroom trials, if necessary.

An AFFF foam lawsuit can compensate you for your injuries and hold responsible parties accountable. This includes:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Medical expenses.
  • Lost wages.

Reach out to us, so our attorneys can help you get any compensation you deserve for your suffering.

Gavel on a desk.

Successful W&L Water Contamination Lawsuits

Our attorneys are knowledgeable regarding environmental issues, especially as they relate to consumer protection and personal injury law. W&L understands the financial burden and emotional suffering you face. 

Here are just two examples of how we have helped our clients:

  • W&L helped secure a $423 million settlement for the pollution of more than 150 public water systems by some of the nation’s largest oil companies. These companies knew that MTBE was a defective product that led to massive contamination and posed risks to health and the environment.
  • W&L obtained a settlement with 3M for the City of Stuart, Florida, in the first bellwether case in the AFFF MDL. Stuart’s drinking water was contaminated from AFFF.

Reach Out to W&L for Help

AFFF poses public health hazards. Don’t let unscrupulous companies shirk responsibility for harmful actions. 

Reach out to us today. We will do all we can to help you get compensation and justice for the injuries you are suffering due to AFFF toxic chemicals.