When discussing chemicals, one of the lesser-known facts is the toxicity of firefighting foam. Indeed, you may have heard of PCBs, Formaldehyde, and more of these toxic chemicals. However, understanding aqueous film-forming foams or AFFF is quite rare.
Did you know that being exposed to AFFF can significantly damage human health? These are dangerous because the PFAS chemicals present in AFFF cause adverse health risks.
Not only does foam exposure lead to thyroid disease, but also kidney and testicular cancer. Individuals like AFFF manufacturers, firefighters, military personnel, and industrial workers get exposed to firefighting foam regularly.
Read on to learn more about AFFF, its health risks, and preventive measures.
Introduction to AFFF
The chemical giant 3M manufactured this synthetic-based foam back in the 1960s. Due to its composition and properties, AFFF extinguishes flammable liquid fuel fires, such as blazes involving units like gas and oil (Class B fires).
Moreover, this fire suppressant was highly influential in the aviation industry as it helped with jet fuel fires. Fire brigades also use this substance during fire drills or training exercises.
As a result, it leads to a highly concentrated exposure to AFFF firefighting foam, resulting in cancer, nerve disorders, and more. Even then, certain benefits have saved lives over the past 50 years.
Are There Any Benefits of Firefighting Foam?
As mentioned earlier, AFFF foam is a fire suppressor that was once an integral part of any firefighter equipment. It not only was a life-saving substance but also worked fast.
It worked by coating the source of the fuel fire or the surface. In turn, it kept the vapors from mixing with the oxygen, reducing the flames’ extent. However, international reports have proved this foam’s operational hazards and dangerous effects.
Despite the benefits, this high-expansion substance affects human health and causes environmental concerns. The industry refers to these toxic chemicals as “forever chemicals,” or PFAS.
What Are Forever Chemicals or PFAS?
These forever chemicals were common in the 1940s, and everyone used them to deal with fuel fires. It comprises per-and-poly-fluoroalkyl or PFAS units from the fluorinated compounds group. Moreover, these manufactured toxic chemicals may have PFOA, Gen X, and PFOS from the same group.
They have a fluorine-carbon bond that is virtually indestructible. The irony is that 3M and Dupont accidentally created this substance that repelled water and oil. Yes, they were not trying to build something so dangerous.
Various toxins from this element seep into the water and contaminate the soil, which causes long-term environmental and physical damage. In fact, there is an ongoing AFFF Lawsuit filed by the people affected by or exposed to this substance. People were told that AFFF was safe, but they developed severe and chronic ailments like cancer.
Therefore, the attorneys working for firms like Tor Hoerman Law assisted individuals with an AFFF class action lawsuit. They fought the good fight and helped gain settlements worth USD 4 billion for the families. The AFFF firefighting foam lawsuit has become a legacy due to these lawyers.
Any military personnel, airport worker, or firefighter in contact with these foams can file an AFFF lawsuit.
Health and Environmental Risks Due to Foam Exposure
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed these chemicals as “hazardous” and linked them to various health risks. Some of them include the following:
- Pancreatic, kidney, prostate, and testicular cancer
- Changes in the secretion of liver enzymes
- Decrease in the birth weights of babies
- An increase in cholesterol levels and high blood pressure risk
- Pre-eclampsia scare in pregnant women
- Changes in immunity and imbalances
- Lowered response to vaccines in children
Other than these, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also made headlines. These persistent PFAS particles are not biodegradable because of their indestructible nature. As a result, these elements can move into the waters and seep into the ground.
From there, it will accumulate over time and into our water or crops. In turn, harming animals, humans, and plants.
Risk of Exposure: How to Protect Yourself From AFFF Exposure?
Most of the long-term effects of AFFF remain a mystery. Even then, you should be careful while working with or around firefighting foam. Individuals can have PFAS exposure if orally ingested, inhaled, or through skin absorption.
Ideally, firefighters follow these protocols to keep themselves safe from such exposures:
- Manage or contain all kinds of AFFF runoff through water bodies
- Employ the use of PPEs and SCBAs while handling firefighting foams
- For industrialists, replace the stocks with foam solutions free of fluorine
- Proper and safe removal of AFFF-contaminated products
- Cleaning exposed areas of the body with adequate sanitization or wipes
- Removing or cleaning contaminated SCBA and PPE kits before reuse
- Showering within one hour of AFFF exposure
Another way to protect individuals from exposure is to ban this element. In fact, the Connecticut State government banned the usage of PFAS in firefighting foam. That is one step toward a safer world.
The Bottom Line
With that, you know that AFFF or firefighting foam is a dangerous chemical that causes cancer and harms the environment. Not only does it contain toxic chemicals, but it also cannot break down. Hence, we call it a “forever chemical.”
Due to this, water bodies and the soil remain contaminated for a long time. Besides, it causes all types of cancer, imbalances, and deficiencies in adults and infants.
That is why there are various AFFF lawsuits to help the victims. Thankfully, governments are on the verge of banning such elements.