The Ripple Effects of AFFF Lawsuits Beyond Firefighting Communities

The Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) firefighting foam that was once hailed as a lifesaver might have done more harm than good. These foams are loaded with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. Alarmingly, PFAS has been linked to severe health issues, including cancer.

Firefighters exposed to AFFF are at the forefront of legal battles. However, the repercussions of these lawsuits extend far beyond fire stations. Communities with contaminated water supplies, farmers grappling with tainted crops, and even the military are embroiled in lawsuits. The AFFF issue has evolved into a complex and far-reaching problem with significant consequences.

In this blog post, we’ll examine the ripple effects of the AFFF lawsuits and how they disrupt industries, leaving no one unscathed. This is a story you will want to experience.

The Environmental Impact

The dark legacy of AFFF doesn’t just linger in our bodies; it’s poisoning the earth we stand on. Pristine rivers, groundwater, and lakes are tainted with PFAS, the persistent “forever chemicals” that resist breaking down, creating a real-life environmental nightmare.


Consider the story of Art Schaap, a fourth-generation farmer in Clovis, New Mexico. His entire livelihood was destroyed when PFAS from a nearby Air Force base contaminated his land and cattle. He was forced to dump thousands of gallons of milk, euthanize approximately 3,600 cows, and lay off dozens of employees. This is just one heartbreaking example of the environmental devastation caused by AFFF.


The problem, however, is far more widespread. Data reveals that 6,189 sites across 50 states are contaminated with these toxic fluorinated compounds. These ticking time bombs threaten drinking water supplies and ecosystems far beyond military bases. The contamination sites are growing at an alarming rate.

The environmental impact of AFFF lawsuits is a story of accountability, demanding that those responsible for this widespread pollution clean up their mess. It’s about protecting our water, land, and the creatures who call it home.

The Military’s Role

The military was a significant user of AFFF firefighting foam, particularly at air bases and on Navy ships where fuel fires are a constant threat—years of training exercises and firefighting drills meant that service members were regularly exposed to AFFF, often unaware of its dangers.


The consequences of this exposure are alarming. Studies have shown that military veterans who served as firefighters are reporting higher rates of testicular cancer and other health issues. 


These individuals who served their country are now paying the price for the military’s reliance on this toxic foam. While steps are being taken to address the contamination they caused, the damage is done. Veterans are sick, and they demand answers.


This is where the lawsuits come into play. Veterans are taking the military to court, demanding accountability and compensation for the harm they’ve suffered. The legal battles are far from over, and the military could face significant liabilities for its role in the AFFF crisis. 


In May 2024, AFFF lawyers added 209 new cases to the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL), bringing the total to 8,270 pending lawsuits as of June 1st, 2024, according to TruLaw.

The Aviation Industry

Let’s shift our focus to airports. In the event of a runway fire, specialized AFFF foam is used to extinguish jet fuel fires. However, the widespread use of AFFF has left a toxic footprint on these vital transportation hubs.


Airports are now hotspots for PFAS contamination, which poses a risk to airport workers and nearby communities. These “forever chemicals” can easily leach into groundwater, potentially affecting the water supply.


The aviation industry needs to pay attention to this problem. There’s a concerted effort to develop PFAS-free firefighting foams, but it’s a complex task. These new foams must be as effective at putting out fires and safe for people and the environment. It’s a challenging goal but a necessary step to ensure air travel safety without sacrificing our health and the environment.


The AFFF foam lawsuit forced the aviation industry to confront its past actions and make crucial changes for the future. The road ahead is bumpy, but the destination is clear: safer airports, cleaner communities, and a healthier planet.

Water Treatment Facilities

Imagine turning on your tap and wondering if your water is safe. That’s the harsh reality for communities near sites where AFFF was used. Scientists estimate that at least one or more PFAS chemicals could be found in 45% of U.S. drinking water. These “forever chemicals” don’t simply disappear; they seep into the ground, contaminating groundwater and ultimately making their way into our drinking water.

Removing PFAS is not simple—it’s akin to trying to fish out microscopic needles from a haystack. However, in 2023, the EPA announced its proposed rule—the first-ever national primary drinking water standards to regulate six types of PFAS chemicals, including PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, HFPO-DA (GenX), and PFBS. This regulation is expected to be finalized in early 2024.


Moreover, some communities are fighting back, filing lawsuits against the AFFF manufacturers who created this mess in the first place. Evidence suggests that manufacturers like 3M and DuPont were aware of the potential toxicity of their products but remained silent for profit. 


Now, communities are demanding that these companies pay their fair share of the cleanup costs and compensate them for their financial burdens.


Is AFFF Foam Banned?

AFFF foam is not completely banned in the U.S. However, some states have enacted laws to restrict or ban its use. The federal government has also taken steps to phase out PFAS-containing firefighting foams, particularly in military applications. The transition to alternative firefighting foams is ongoing.

What Are the 2 Most Used Ratios of AFFF?

The two most common ratios for Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) are 3% and 6%. The 3% ratio is typically used for hydrocarbon fuel fires, while the 6% ratio is used for fires involving polar solvents or alcohol fuels.

What Has Replaced AFFF Foam?

AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) is being phased out due to its harmful PFAS content. It’s being replaced by fluorine-free foams (F3), which are also effective at suppressing fires but do not contain the toxic chemicals in AFFF. Some facilities have opted for alternative fire suppression systems like high-density water applications or non-fluorinated foam options.


In conclusion, the fight against PFAS contamination is a battle for our health, our environment, and the future of our planet. It demands stricter regulations on these harmful chemicals, greater transparency from manufacturers, and a commitment to developing safer alternatives. By staying informed and taking action, we can protect ourselves and future generations from the devastating legacy of AFFF.

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