AFFF has been in the news recently amid reports that firefighters, military members, and others with occupational exposure to this firefighting foam have developed serious types of cancer such as kidney, testicular, liver, and thyroid cancers, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia, and more. Those impacted by AFFF have filed lawsuits seeking compensation and financial damages from the manufacturers, including 3M and DuPont. Below we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about AFFF.

AFFF firefighting foam frequently asked questions

What Does AFFF Stand For?

AFFF is short for aqueous film-forming foam. 

What is in AFFF?

AFFF includes surfactants that create its foam, along with solvents like trimethyl-trimethylene-glycol and hexylene glycol. It also includes foam stabilizers like lauryl alcohol and substances intended to inhibit corrosion. None of these substances are particularly good for you and can cause negative health effects, but the cancer-causing chemicals in AFFF are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Is AFFF Cancerous?

PFAS-based foams are bioaccumulative, which means that they build up in your bloodstream with chronic exposure. Over time, the buildup of this hazardous substance in your excretory organs like your liver, kidneys, and bladder puts you at a greater risk of developing cancer in these organs; and unfortunately, cancers that develop in the liver, kidneys, thyroid, and digestive system. 

Which PFAS are in AFFF?

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is a type of PFAS that is found in older AFFF products, while perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a byproduct that is created during the manufacturing of AFFF. Because AFFF is manufactured by several companies, each of these manufacturing processes can create additional PFAS that are unique to that brand.

What Type of Fire is AFFF Used On?

AFFF is designed to form a film over petroleum-based fuels, blocking oxygen access to quickly extinguish fires. It’s used at airports, military bases, oil rigs, gas stations, shore facilities, ships, and other places where fire is likely to be caused by a liquid-fuel-based accelerant.

What are Possible AFFF Exposures?

The use of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) has been pervasive with large companies such as 3M manufacturing the product for many decades. Firefighters and military personnel have worked with the foam for years, resulting in potential long-term exposure to the chemical. Civilians and military personnel may have experienced exposure during firefighting operations or during certain types of on-base training exercises. 

There is also an environmental concern as AFFF may leak into drinking water sources over time. Therefore, people living near facilities where AFFF is used are also at risk of hazardous long-term health effects due to chemical exposure. These facilities can range from military installations to chemical plants or firefighting departments where AFFF might be stored or used. Everyone should be aware that any sort of exposure to AFFF could potentially  have an elevated risk of negative health outcomes later down the line.

What Substances in AFFF Have Been Detected in Groundwater?

Not only can AFFF pose hazards to those who are directly exposed through their jobs, but the PFOS and PFAS used in AFFF can have an environmental impact as well if it leaches into groundwater. The contaminated water may be harmful to those who live nearby. PFAS can also be hazardous to animals. If PFAS are discharged near an aquifer, they can wind up in the water supply, potentially increasing the cancer risk for everyone in the area.

Is AFFF Dangerous?

The level of exposure makes a difference with the risk of AFFF-related health conditions. A single exposure to AFFF isn’t likely to have any hazardous health effects. The danger of AFFF (particularly, the danger of PFAS and PFOS) lies in chronic, long-term exposure. The more times you’re exposed to AFFF, the more PFAS wind up in your bloodstream; and because your body can’t excrete PFAS in the same way as other toxic substances, frequent exposure over a long period of time can lead to a dangerous blood level of PFAS.

What Are the Health Effects of PFAS Exposure?

In addition to increasing the risk of kidney, testicular, liver, and thyroid cancers, ulcerative colitis, and pre-eclampsia, PFAS can lead to a higher risk of blood and circulatory system cancers like leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. PFAS may also increase the risk of liver conditions like cirrhosis; because the liver’s main function is to filter waste from the system, it tends to accumulate PFAS at a higher rate than other organs. 

Are PFAS Still Used?

Some types of PFAS chemicals have been phased out due to human health risks. However, there are still many PFAS that are used in a variety of consumer products, from plastic food containers to nonstick pots and pans. 

Is AFFF Toxic?

AFFF isn’t toxic in and of itself; that is, someone who has been exposed to AFFF once isn’t going to immediately notice its effects. However, the PFOS and PFAS in AFFF are carcinogenic with long-term exposure.

What Should You Do if Your AFFF Exposure Caused Illness?

At The Ferraro Law Firm, we have a national reputation for handling toxic tort lawsuits like the AFFF lawsuit. Our attorneys are here to help you navigate these complex procedures and give you the guidance you need to make sure your case is timely and professionally handled. To schedule your free consultation with a member of our legal team, please complete the simple form on our contact page and one of our attorneys will be in touch shortly.