Upon enrolling as an Atlanta firefighter in 1980, Mark Johnson was well aware of the significant hazards involved.
“Being caught in a flashover or a collapse,” Johnson said, “we’re not thinking about the foam agent we might be using.”
Similarly, Craig Chait, a fellow retired firefighter, didn’t give much thought to this either.
“I never assumed or thought there were any issues with AFFF or that it could cause cancer or that it could hurt you in the future,” said Chait.
Now, however, it’s something that constantly haunts their minds.
Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) serves as a specialized firefighting tool designed to extinguish flammable liquids. Its composition includes chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which play a role in suppressing dangerous fires. Yet, there might be a cost comes with these benefits.
In January 2023, Chait was diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer.
After the surgery, the 53-year-old’s voice became higher in pitch and sometimes sounded hoarse. It’s different from his voice before cancer, a cancer he thinks might have been caused by AFFF.
“It’s a product that has a number of potential concerns to it,” said Miriam Calkins, a research industrial hygienist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
NIOSH is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Calkins mentioned that this federal agency is currently conducting research to understand the effects of PFAS and AFFF exposure on firefighters.
“There’s a lot of research that’s been building up that suggests exposure to PFAS may lead to adverse health outcomes including cancer, organ damage, reproductive and immune system defects,” Calkins said.
These chemicals also have a potential connection to prostate cancer, which is what Mark Johnson is currently recuperating from.
The foam isn’t employed on a daily basis, nor is it utilized by every fire department. It’s specifically designed for combatting fires fueled by oil and fuel. As a result, its primary application occurs in industrial facilities, air force bases, and airports such as Hartsfield Jackson. It was within these settings that Chait and Johnson encountered this foam, being exposed to it for nearly twenty years.
“We had to have an annual training burn every year,” Johnson said.
Johnson explains that these training burns would extend over the course of a week. During this, firefighters would handle significant quantities of AFFF without utilizing masks or protective gloves. Now Johnson is 67 years old, and he holds the belief that consistent exposure to AFFF might have been a factor contributing to his cancer.
Johnson and Chait are just individuals within an expanding global community of firefighters who hold the belief that AFFF has negatively impacted their well-being. This sentiment has drawn in hundreds of firefighters who have united through a Facebook group to shed light on the possible hazards associated with AFFF.
The Utilization of PFFF Continues.
However, even with the increasing concern regarding its safety, PFFF is still in active use today, including at Hartsfield Jackson Airport.
In fact, in the last year, the city of Atlanta signed a contract to supply the airport with PFFF until 2023. Although Georgia implemented a law in 2019 to prohibit the use of PFFF in training drills, it continues to be employed during urgent and unforeseen circumstances.
“I don’t like it at all that they’re still using it, that they haven’t found something better. That they haven’t gone to other means,” Chait said.
While there are alternative options to AFFF, Calkins explains that the replacement is not as easy as it might seem.
“There does not appear to be a single product, at least not yet, that performs as well as AFFF,” she said.
As of today, both Johnson and Chait have overcome cancer and are in remission. However, they still carry concerns about the potential health challenges that lie ahead and the possible health issues that their fellow firefighters might face.
“I’m better now and I don’t have cancer but it’s gonna take me, with everything that I had, probably six to eight more months to be normal again. I’m still not normal,” said Chait. “Why should people have to go through that?”
Many plaintiffs are in a lawsuit against the companies that made PFAS and sold the foam.
“For me, personally, that’s unforgivable. If they knew this way ahead of these lawsuits that have come to light, they should have taken action,” Johnson said.
AFFF now have been associated with several health injuries, including various types of cancers, inculing：
- Kidney Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Testicular Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Bladder Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Thyroid Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
So，If you or your loved one is a firefighter who was exposed to firefighting foam and later developed cancer, you may be entitled to compensation from an AFFF lawsuit. No Win, No Fee.
If you are unsure of your eligibility, call 855-389-0031 to talk to one of our experts today! We’ll review your case for free and let you know if you qualify for legal action.