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New York Personal Injury Attorneys

NYC Firefighter Injuries: Exposure to PFAs Through Firefighting Foam

April 22, 2021 in

New York firefighters are faced with extreme risk every day. Exposure to toxic compounds, while less of an immediate risk than other potential injuries faced on the job, is one that can lead to life threatening diseases. Here, the skilled attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McManus Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. discuss exposure to the polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), and the legal options available for those suffering harm due to exposure on the job. 

What is Firefighting Foam?

Aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), also known as firefighting foam, is a substance routinely used for fire suppression. It is highly effective in containing and extinguishing Class B fires due to its ability to prevent oxygenation and combustion. The substance has been used by firefighters and in other occupations for more than 50 years. 

The Dangers of AFFF and PFAS

While highly effective in combating fires, AFFF use and exposure also poses serious long-term health risks due to the chemical compounds that make up the substance. PFAS, also known as polyfluoroalkyl substances, are manufactured chemical compounds used in certain consumer products due to their repellent properties. The most common of these compounds, perfluorooctane acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are used in firefighting foam, and can be absorbed into the body orally, through inhalation or through the skin. Most often, these substances accumulate in the blood, kidney and liver. 

Life-Threatening Effects of Exposure

The PFAS found in firefighting foam have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Once ingested or absorbed, PFAS chemicals have the potential to remain in the human body for extended periods of time. When an individual has long-term exposure to the chemicals, the concentration compounds in the body, often leading to severe adverse health effects. 

Lab studies on animals have shown that when exposed to certain PFAS in large doses, the risk of developing tumors in the liver, testicles, breasts and pancreas increases. Other studies have compared the rates of cancer in humans residing near plants that manufacture the chemicals and suggested an increased risk of certain cancers due to atmospheric or environmental exposure.

Occupational Exposure: Firefighting with PFAS

Contrary to popular belief, fire-related injuries are not the most common cause of occupational death for firefighters—in fact, cancer from exposure to carcinogens on the job is far more deadly to firefighters in the long run than the day-to-day threats of the job.

Similar to that of asbestos, exposure to the PFAS in firefighting foam has been linked to several severe and life threatening conditions. These include kidney disease, leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer, among others. Firefighters are at increased risk of these diseases – specifically kidney, testicular and pancreatic cancer – as they are regularly exposed to and ingest the chemicals in the course of their work. 

If you or someone you know is a firefighter that may have been exposed to PFAS through firefighting foam over the course of their career and now notice signs and symptoms of the above conditions- including severe abdominal pain, bloody urine or stool, or the development of abnormal masses – talk to your doctor immediately. 

The New York Firefighter Injury Attorneys at SPBMCC Have a History of Serving Injured Firefighters

A number of plaintiffs have already filed lawsuits claiming that AFFF exposure caused their cancers.  In these suits, plaintiffs’ attorneys allege that the manufacturers, including 3M and DuPont, knew about the risks associated with AFFF and PFAS exposure, but did not warn the public or take preventative measures to control the environmental and human health risks. Firefighters who have used AFFF in the course of their work and been diagnosed with diseases including kidney, testicular and pancreatic cancer may be eligible to take legal action and seek compensation for their suffering.

As General Counsel to the New York City Uniformed Firefighters Association, we are keenly aware of how firefighters bravely place themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives of our citizens and the property of our city. If you are looking for a firefighter injury lawyer in New York, reach out to a member of our firm who can provide you a comprehensive consultation at no cost to you. If it is determined that you are eligible to file a lawsuit for occupational exposure as a firefighter, our attorneys will provide you the best legal counsel in New York and ensure you receive due compensation for your injuries. Please call (212) 732-9000 today or fill out a form here to connect with a member of our firm.

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