2 firefighters spraying high pressure water to fire

Firefighters are heroes to us all. They offer protection in times of crisis, where every second counts and lives are literally in their hands. But who protects firefighters against exposure to deadly toxins like forever chemicals?

According to studies published in the National Library of Medicine, firefighters are at an increased risk of exposure to PFAS based on the unique demands of their occupation. From a study first published in March of 2023:

“Firefighters have been found to have elevated serum levels of long-chain PFASs. Due to the persistence of PFAS chemicals in the human body and their ability to bioaccumulate, firefighters experience the latent and cumulative effects of PFAS-containing AFFF exposure that occurs throughout their careers.”

In this blog post, we’ll explore the legal concerns surrounding firefighters’ increased exposure to these harmful forever chemicals. Firefighters are not without a path for recourse. Our personal injury lawyers help you navigate the complexities of your legal case. Call us today at 888-554-2030 or just fill out our free case consultation form and a member of our team will soon be in touch.

What are Forever Chemicals?

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals that are harmful to human and environmental health. PFAS have been used in manufacturing and industrial processes to produce a variety of products for over 70 years. They were once valued for their ability to make certain materials water and oil resistant. However, recently, we’ve begun to understand just how dangerous these chemicals can be.

While there are thousands of different subtypes of chemicals within the understood group of PFAS, they all share at least one characteristic: they break down very slowly, giving them the ability to build up in the environment and within the bodies of humans and animals over time. This characteristic has earned them the moniker “Forever chemicals.”

PFAS are very often found in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (or “AFFF”), a firefighting foam used to fight liquid fuel fires. They are also often found in many of the layers of textiles used to create turnout gear coats and pants that firefighters must wear. The moisture barrier and outer shell layers of firefighters’ turnout gear have been found to be particularly high in levels of PFAS contamination.

Risks and Health Effects of Forever Chemicals

Studies have found that there are probable links between high exposure to forever chemicals and:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thyroid disease (i.e., hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism)           
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension)

Through wearing standard, PFAS containing turnout gear, forever chemicals are absorbed through firefighters’ skin. They also breathe in PFAS through close exposure to Aqueous Film Forming Foam.

The research surrounding the increased risk of certain diseases, including the above cancers, as they relate to high PFAS exposure is ongoing. Gaining a full understanding of PFAS contamination and its effect on human health is made more difficult by the sheer number of forever chemicals that exist.

Protective Measures for Firefighters

The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) has said that there are currently no PFAS-free turnout gear options available on the market. For firefighters looking to limit their exposure, wearing turnout gear less often, i.e., when responding to non-fire-related emergencies, may be the best course of action.

FAQs: Firefighters Exposed to PFAS

  • Why are there no PFAS-free alternative gear options for firefighters?
  • When will alternative gear options free of PFAS be available to firefighters?
  • Can a firefighter’s PFAS levels be spread to their children?
  • Do all firefighting foams contain PFAS?
  • What can firefighters do to remove PFAS already in their bodies?

Firefighters’ exposure to AFFF may make them eligible to file a lawsuit if they have developed some form of cancer or disease directly linked to the hazardous substances in the foam. Keep in mind that statutes of limitation, which vary from state to state, may limit how long after AFFF exposure you can pursue legal action. For this reason, persons affected should not wait until it is too late and should work with an experienced firefighting foam attorney.

The Ferraro Law Firm’s Experience in Forever Chemical Cases

The Ferraro Law Firm has experience fighting for the rights of firefighters exposed to PFAS. We are actively taking on new cases in this area of law. When choosing an attorney to represent you in your PFAS exposure case, it’s critical to select a team with experience.

Are you interested in learning more about the legal concerns surrounding PFAS for firefighters? At The Ferraro Law Firm, we’re here to talk through your circumstances with you. When and if you do have a case, we focus intensely on your legal rights and will use all our resources to ensure you have the most robust representation possible. To schedule your free consultation, call 888-554-2030 or just fill out our free case consultation form and a member of our team will soon be in touch.